Tigers use trio to fill closer's role
Rodney, Zumaya and Farnsworth to split closing duties
CHICAGO -- Not only was Joel Zumaya available in the bullpen for the Tigers' series opener against the White Sox on Tuesday night, he was available for a save situation. On another night, manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday, Kyle Farnsworth could be available to close down a win.
Leyland didn't use the term "closer by committee," but his message was clear that he could work a trio of late-inning relievers into the closer's role. It really isn't much different than what he said on the topic last week, except that the recently-acquired Farnsworth is now added into the mix.
The ninth-inning save opportunities last week went to Fernando Rodney, who gave up a game-tying run Wednesday night at Cleveland before battling his command and walking in the winning run Sunday at Tampa Bay. He rebounded to toss three hitless innings with five strikeouts on Tuesday to keep the game tied.
Leyland said Rodney will still close on occasions.
"Sometimes," Leyland said.
Other times, he said, "It could also be Farnsworth, could be Zumaya."
Leyland had suggested last week that Zumaya could have some save opportunities depending on the situation, so that part wasn't new. How those chances will be divided depends in part on their availability. Zumaya's arm has been a worry for the past week or so, starting with tightness in his triceps last week before he felt discomfort higher up in his arm after pitching Friday. He was held back from pitching Saturday and Sunday as a result.
Even before the soreness, however, the Tigers have tried not to overextend Zumaya, who missed the first 2 1/2 months of the season following shoulder surgery last fall. Likewise, the Tigers can't afford to press Rodney, who was likewise out until June with shoulder issues that began in Spring Training and lingered into the season. That means workloads are being watched closely.
"We still have to get them through," Leyland said.
Zumaya has one save this season, that one coming June 30 at Minnesota. He took a one-run lead into the ninth inning July 19 at Baltimore following a scoreless eighth before a Ramon Hernandez solo homer tied the game.
Todd Jones, who was pulled out of the full-time closing role before going on the disabled list but was still available to close on occasion last week with shoulder tendinitis, owns 18 of the Tigers' 22 saves entering Tuesday. Freddy Dolsi has two, while Rodney and Zumaya have one each.
Farnsworth closed for the Tigers for a stretch in 2005, recording six saves before saving 10 more for the Braves following a Trade Deadline deal to Atlanta. He saved one game for the Yankees this season before returning to Detroit in last week's Ivan Rodriguez trade.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.