DETROIT -- The Tigers are out of their extreme bullpen exhaustion, but that didn't lead to any move to cut back to seven relievers on Thursday. In fact, they might not do that for a little while.
"I'm going to stay with 13 pitchers [on the staff] for a period of time," manager Jim Leyland said on Wednesday.
That period could include Sunday, when the Tigers need an extra starter rather than use Rick Porcello on short rest. Whether it's Alfredo Figaro making the assignment, one of the Tigers' other long relievers or a callup from Triple-A Toledo, they'll need somebody not currently in the rotation. That leaves the Tigers needing that extra arm.
Leyland was no closer to a decision on that front on Thursday morning. How the bullpen use plays out over the next couple of days could be the determining factor whether to go with the bullpen or potentially give a quick callup to Armando Galarraga, whose next scheduled start for Triple-A Toledo falls on Sunday.
For now, it means the Tigers' bench is short one position. The impact of that was apparent Thursday. With Ryan Raburn having been optioned out Wednesday morning, the Tigers had one less right-handed bat on the bench. Thus, rookie Brennan Boesch, a left-handed hitter, made his first start on Thursday against a left-handed starting pitcher -- Yankees ace CC Sabathia, no less.
Kelly making plays in field look easy
DETROIT -- Don Kelly moved from a regular shortstop job in the Minor Leagues to a jack-of-all-trades role a while ago. Still, plays like he has made the past two games aren't all that much easier nowadays.
Though the Tigers ended up losing Wednesday's nightcap, 8-0, to the Yankees, Kelly's diving stop down the third-base line to rob Alex Rodriguez of a potential extra-base hit and RBI arguably kept them in the game a little longer. His dive to his right, then strong-armed throw from his knees looked like a play Brandon Inge would make.
Inge, however, is a regular third baseman. Kelly was making just his fourth start there this season.
It's part of the job of being a utility player. But it's a job that requires a good amount of fielding work during batting practice to keep himself ready.
"It's not about range, basically," Kelly said Thursday morning. "I think it's more about understanding you go front to back more than you go side to side. You can't create your own hop. You have to catch what you're given at third base. Because at short, you get a lot more routine ground balls, where you can get yourself in a position to get a good hop. It's just trying to create the game speed during BP to be ready when you get in there."
Hours later, Kelly was several feet back, playing left field in Thursday's series finale, when he came up with another big stop. He went all the way to the warning track to run down Randy Winn's fly ball in the eighth inning, crashing against the fence in the process.
It's a play Tigers outfielders have practiced -- not the crash so much as turning around and regaining sight of the ball.
"I knew I was on the track," Kelly said. "I didn't really know exactly where the fence was. It worked out good. I was able to slide and catch the ball and not really run into the fence."
For a team with currently just three reserve position players, Kelly is vital. When he isn't starting, he's not just the only reserve who can play the outfield, he's a potential entry at first, second and third base, plus an emergency shortstop or catcher.
And as he has shown lately, he's a potential highlight play at several positions.
"It really doesn't matter, as long as you get the out," he said.
Leyland wants Boesch to stay aggressive
DETROIT -- Manager Jim Leyland doesn't want Brennan Boesch trying to do anything special or make any adjustments to change his hitting style. The way he's hitting right now, he wants Boesch to be himself.
In his case, that's an aggressive hitter who can pound out a key single as well as a home run but will also swing a lot.
"When he hits it, something happens," Leyland said. "That's why I like him."
Boesch does not get cheated at the plate, no doubt. Entering Thursday's series finale against the Yankees, he had taken just 13 percent of the total strikes thrown to him, according to research on baseball-reference.com. However, he had swung and missed at just 16 percent. He fouled off 37 percent and put 35 percent into play.
The challenge of Boesch's first start against a left-handed starting pitcher didn't change that at all. He swung at each of the first two pitches he saw from CC Sabathia in the second inning, ripping a line-drive double on the second. After Miguel Cabrera homered in the fourth inning, Boesch took a first-pitch ball, fouled off back-to-back pitches, then pounced on a slider over the plate and pulled it just over the fence in the right-field corner for a home run.
"I don't try to do too much against lefties," Boesch said afterwards. "Just try to hit it on the sweet spot and see what happens. They've still got to make good pitches. They still have to hit their spots. It doesn't change much for me, honestly."
Boesch took one called strike out of the 11 pitches he saw for the day. It was the first pitch in the sixth inning after Cabrera doubled in two runs, and fell into an 0-2 hole before swinging and missing on a 2-2 pitch.
Another impressive example came Wednesday afternoon, when he pull an offspeed pitch from Javier Vazquez foul deep into the right-field stands. Instead of second-guessing himself and gearing up for a fastball or trying to overcompensate and being late, he went at a similar pitch and hit a simple ground-ball single through the right side for a base hit and an insurance run.
"He swings," Leyland said. "Like I've said, I'd really much rather have him swing at a bad one than take two good ones. I don't want anybody messing with him, telling him to be patient, get better pitches. Swing the bat. That's what he does.
"I think he's got a pretty good eye. He'll chase one once in a while, but so do veterans. I'd rather have him do that than start taking fastballs and making the pitcher work. That's not for him. That's for somebody else."
That doesn't mean he doesn't have a plan up there.
"I think being aggressive is great, as long as you're in the strike zone," Boesch said. "You can't be too aggressive in the strike zone, in my opinion. There's no point in taking strikes, for me. You start chasing balls, you start going out of the zone, and that's when being aggressive is a problem. That's not aggressive. That's just flailing, or not having a plan.
"I have a plan every time I walk up there. That's what allows me to be aggressive, because I have an idea what I'm trying to do. It's pretty simple: Get a good pitch to hit, and try to put a good swing on it."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.