I made a point a few days ago about available reliever Jon Rauch, and I still believe that the Tigers would be better off without him. Now news has come out that the Mets have designated former Tiger Brandon Lyon for assignment. He may or may not have appeal in the trade market – so the Tigers may or may not have competition – but his cost would be low before or after formally hitting the open market. Lyon is not a relief ace, shutdown kind of reliever. He is a veteran with a good track record who knows how to get guys out. A couple of lousy appearances was all it took to get Lyon booted out of New York, but with the prospect of incentives kicking in they were probably looking for any excuse. The ERA this season doesn’t look great at 4.98, but as with Rauch that’s mostly a function of his high BABIP allowed this season.
One thing that the Tigers have lacked this season is relievers that fans (and managers) simply feel that they can trust, with the injury to Octavio Dotel, inconsistency (read – good one day, bad the next) from young arms with talent, and cringe-worthy performances from Jose Valverde and Phil Coke. What we need isn’t really more talented relievers – though there is nothing wrong with great stuff. What we need is to feel like that reliever is going to go out every time and do his thing. We haven’t seen that from a number of guys, either he’ll go out and do his thing and get clobbered (because that is what his “thing” is) or you’ll roll the dice every time you put him in to see which pitcher will show up on that day. Lyon could be an antidote for some of this, as could Rauch.
Who to send down? The first, most obvious, guy is Phil Coke. A limited number of days remain when Phil Coke, the third lefty in the Tigers bullpen, can be optioned without his consent. The man appears to need to spend some low-pressure time in AAA working on his changeup, because if that pitch just isn’t working for him he doesn’t have much value to a club. There shouldn’t be any difficulty in replacing Coke with a righty, since the Tigers would still have two lefties in the ‘pen without him. As for the second guy, if by some miracle the Tigers decided to (and were able to) grab both Lyon and Rauch? The choice is between Bruce Rondon and Luke Putkonen… Rondon is the top prospect with the golden arm, Putkonen is the guy that has gotten results. If it were up to me, I’d send down Rondon. If it were up to Leyland, Dombrowski and the rest of the Tigers organization (which, come to think of it, I believe that it is) I’m sure they’d send down Putkonen. Aside from liking his raw stuff, there is something to be gained from simply getting an extended look at Rondon – and particularly how his stuff fares against really good competition. But, really, what is Rondon but a guy who throws hard and locates poorly? IF he learns to locate his fastball, watch out, but… I like results, and Putkonen’s have been good. He also features a pitch mix that’s as close to matchup neutral as you’ll find – leading to a .262 wOBA against lefties this year and a .270 wOBA against righties.