Detroit Tigers Call Up Darin Downs in Possible Search for LOOGY Option

Jun 29, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Darin Downs (38) against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers announced today that they’ve recalled lefty reliever Darin Downs from the minor leagues. Downs doesn’t have spectacular number in the big leagues – a 5.18 ERA in a previous stint this seson and a career 4.53 ERA in 44 total appearances – but his numbers are skewed worse than they might otherwise be due to the number of right handed hitters he’s been allowed to face in his career.

Downs has shown a sharp platoon split in his two (partial) big league seasons (.911 OPS versus RHH, .563 OPS versus LHH) and remains a LOOGY pure-and-simple.

It’s not surprising that Downs was added to the roster this September – the aforementioned splits suggest that he can be effective if used correctly – but the timing of the move is more than a little bit odd. Rosters expanded nine days ago, and the Toled Mud Hens season ended eight days ago, but the club waited until today to give him a call up. What’s the exact significance of the timing?

I’m not sure if there’s anything to read into or not, but neither Phil Coke nor Jose Alvarez have been ultra-sharp in their most recent opportunities out of the bullpen. It might be that the Tigers are simply looking to have a new body available for emergency depth, but it might be that they’re not convinced in their ability to get left-handed hitters out with regularity.

Phil Coke hasn’t allowed a run since his August 31 recall – four appearances of not more than one out each – but six of the seven batters he’s faced have put the ball in play, and the seventh drew a walk. In this small sample size stint, Coke has allowed left handed opponents to reach base at a .600 clip (.429 overall). Despite a 0.00 ERA over the sample period, that’s not getting the job done. The Tigers might be panicking about the lack of actual lefty-on-lefty options.

I still think Coke finds his way onto the postseason roster (assuming postseason), because Leyland likes experience and Coke was “clutch” last October, but perhaps we’ll see Downs garner some LOOGY opportunities over the final 19 (!) days of the season.

Topics: Darin Downs, Detroit Tigers, Phil Coke

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