Tigers hope to land free-agent relievers
Bullpen help, especially setup men, a priority for offseason
DETROIT -- The Tigers have had to give late-inning opportunities to quite a few young relievers the last few months after injuries to Bobby Seay, Zach Miner and Joel Zumaya depleted Detroit's bullpen. But that big-game experience doesn't mean they have the depth they want in their bullpen for next year.
In other words, add relievers (plural) to the Tigers' lengthy wish list for their payroll space this winter, even if Zumaya returns healthy in time for Opening Day and Phil Coke remains in the bullpen.
"The free-agent market, we're going to look for some relievers," manager Jim Leyland said. "We need help, and that's where we're going to get it, we think. We're hoping to get it through maybe some free agency."
It's not a certainty, Leyland cautioned, but he made it clear Detroit needs help, whether it's through free agency or trades.
The good news for the Tigers is that they're set at closer with Jose Valverde, so they won't have to hit that end of the market. But the setup relief market in recent years has been just about as competitive, and some of the best signings end up being among the most obscure. While the Astros inked Brandon Lyon to a 3-year, $15 million contract to set up for Matt Lindstrom in Houston before taking over at closer, Joaquin Benoit has been one of the best in the game since making the Rays as a non-roster invitee this spring coming off rotator cuff surgery.
Detroit could still stick with left-hander Coke as a part-time setup man or specialist, but it appears they'll look for eighth-inning help regardless. Ryan Perry has had ups and downs in setup situations this year, his second full pro season, and while he's likely a key part of next year's bullpen, Leyland still wants to see more consistency from him, as well as more effectiveness pitching on back-to-back days.
Robbie Weinhardt and Daniel Schlereth have a chance to make next year's club after making some late-season impressions as rookies, but their relative inexperience will likely keep them out of primary late-inning roles. Miner might not be ready for the start of next season, and he wasn't really a late-inning reliever when he was healthy anyway.
Leyland supports limited expansion of replay
DETROIT -- After further review, Major League Baseball's On-Field Committee is going to look at the replay issue this winter, according to Tigers manager Jim Leyland. But Leyland made his views clear Saturday.
Leyland, one of four managers on the committee, said he talked with Commissioner Bud Selig a few days ago on the matter.
"Fair or foul, and home runs," Leyland said of his own philosophy on when replay should be used.
The only expansion Leyland indicated he'd like to see is the fair-or-foul part, which he believes should be available to be used for balls that aren't home runs. Leyland pointed to the foul-ball call on a ball hit by Minnesota's Joe Mauer in last year's American League Division Series as a big play that could've been reviewed.
Other than that, Leyland said, he worried about too much replay taking away from the pace of the game and taking away the human element, something he believes should remain a big part of the game. Considering the debated calls that have gone against the Tigers this season, from Armando Galarraga's would-be perfect game on June 2 to the called third strike outside on Johnny Damon at Atlanta to Friday's clear call on Ryan Raburn at first base, Leyland's outlook is honestly a surprise.
"I'm not for the replay, just a very little bit," Leyland said. "I just don't think you can draw a line. You want a replay on balls and strikes?
"I think the umpire element is huge in our game, and that's how it should be. I think that's the way it's always been, and I think that's the way it always should be. But I know we're going to have a major discussion."
Inge sets Tigers franchise mark for strikeouts
DETROIT -- Whatever happens with Brandon Inge and the Tigers this offseason, he has made a major impact in this city. One of the marks of his longevity, though, will be the times when he made no impact at all.
Inge would rather take an aggressive swing and risk a miss for the chance at doing some damage, rather than a defensive swing that won't do much if he makes contact. Given that, it's a little easier for him to live with the Tigers' franchise strikeout record.
Inge's swing and miss to end the third inning of Saturday's 11-10 win over the Twins was his 1,099th strikeout in a 10-year career comprised entirely in Detroit. The whiff tied him with former Tigers great Lou Whitaker for the franchise standard. Inge passed Whitaker in the eighth inning with his 1,100th strikeout, and he fanned one more time in the 11th. Inge did drive in the game-winning run, delivering an RBI single in the 13th.
Whitaker compiled his K's over a 19-year career that spanned 9,967 plate appearances. Inge's record-tying strikeout came in his 4,839th career plate appearance, the lowest total of anybody in the top six on the Tigers' all-time franchise list. Of course, Tigers greats Norm Cash, Al Kaline and Willie Horton round out the top five.
Inge doesn't fall into those categories, but he has been good enough that his manager has long since learned to live with the swings and misses.
"I think here's the key to that: As an organization and as a manager, you're supposed to know what you have," Jim Leyland said. "Would you like to see it cut down some? Yes. But you have to make a decision that you're willing to live with that or you're not, and I'm certainly willing to live with that. I think he's a heck of a player.
"That's Brandon Inge. If you're not satisfied with it, that's a decision you have to make. I'm satisfied with it. That's just the way it is."
Laird adjusts throw back to pitcher
DETROIT -- Tigers catcher Gerald Laird said he has a change in his mechanics when he throws the ball back to the pitcher, but that it has nothing to do with his back, which he insists is fine now. Instead, he said it's an adjustment he made for the sake of the throw.
The backstop's throws were a topic on the ESPN Sunday night broadcast during the Tigers' series finale against the White Sox last weekend.
Laird has dealt with back spasms multiple times this season, including an episode earlier this month that kept him out of action for several days. But he says that's unrelated.
Instead, he said, it's the nature of the throw, which is completely different than his throws to second base.
"Sometimes it's hard, because I'm used to throwing everything hard," Laird said. "It's just sometimes it gets in your head."