DETROIT -- The Tigers signed Joaquin Benoit to serve as their eighth-inning setup man. Until he works through his early-season issues, though, it appears he won't be doing that.
Manager Jim Leyland told Tigers play-by-play broadcaster Dan Dickerson as part of his pregame show that he was moving Benoit out of the setup position for the time being. There was no clear indication who would fill the spot or whether eighth-inning leads would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Leyland refused to talk about Benoit when asked by reporters on Tuesday. His remarks after Monday's loss hinted that he was pondering a potential shift.
"He's an important piece of the puzzle," Leyland said, "but we're going to have to look at it and figure something out. I'll have to figure out the strategic part."
Technically, Benoit's loss on Monday night wasn't a setup situation. He entered to begin the eighth inning with the score tied at 1, then gave up three runs on four hits. He exited once the inning was complete to a good amount of boos from the crowd at Comerica Park.
Pitching coach Rick Knapp indicated after the game that the team could try pitching Benoit in lower-pressure situations. The way the starters have been pitching lately, though, that's easier said than done. The only reliever to pitch in last weekend's rain-shortened two-game sweep of the Royals was closer Jose Valverde.
Monday, by comparison, was Benoit's first outing in five days and his third since May 2.
Knapp believes that the issue is more mental than physical.
"Is it mechanics? I don't think it's mechanics," Knapp said. "I think it's just confidence. 'Throw the ball down' isn't really something you can think about. You have to leverage it that way. You have to know that you're going to throw the ball down and not have to think about it. When you have to think about it, then you have a better chance [of making] a mistake. And that's kind of about where he's at right now. He's trying to execute pitches maybe too hard, and he's not."
Both Knapp and Benoit felt that his previous outing, last week at Minnesota, was a big step forward. He gave up three hits over 1 1/3 innings, and a game-tying run that was unearned thanks to a double-error play, but he also kept the Twins from pulling ahead with help from two eighth-inning strikeouts.
"I think Minnesota was a good positive stepping point," Knapp said. "He'll get more opportunities. It's one of those deals where you have to execute to get confidence. Confidence isn't something that you're going to just show up with. It isn't something that just walks through the door. You have your swagger, but I think right now he's a little bit in his own head."
Dirks reflects on memorable big league debut
DETROIT -- With his parents in the stands, Andy Dirks made a memorable Major League debut.
The 25-year-old outfielder drew a walk in his first plate appearance and hit a single in his first official at-bat, in the third inning on Monday. But he was picked off leaning a little too far off the bag on a play Dirks said was going to be a steal attempt.
Manager Jim Leyland thought that Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek balked, but Dirks didn't seem to have an issue with anything.
"That's part of the game sometimes," Dirks said. "I was trying to be a little aggressive right there, and he got me. Next time he won't get me."
That confidence has been apparent since Friday, when Dirks was called up after Magglio Ordonez was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Dirks was set to start in left field and bat second on Tuesday against the Blue Jays before the rainout.
"You've always got to be confident with your ability until you quit playing, or else you're not going to make it far," Dirks said. "I'm just excited to play."
Martinez ready for return to Boston
DETROIT -- For the second straight year, the Tigers have a former member of the Red Sox going back to Boston. Victor Martinez's reception, however, should be a little sweeter than the one Johnny Damon received last year.
That's certainly what Martinez hopes.
"You know what? To be honest with you, I don't think I did anything bad, anything wrong when my time was up there," said Martinez, who signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Tigers as a free agent last November. "I'm just hoping that the fans know that it's part of baseball. You work all your life, you work so hard, and now you need to take care of your family, too. I'm just hoping they understand that. But we'll see what happens.
"Either way, nothing against them. There's no hard feelings against anybody. I have nothing but great things to say about the organization, the city, the fans. It was one of my great experiences in my big league career."
Martinez's tenure in Boston lasted just under a season and a half, but it made a lasting impact on him and the club. By all accounts, he was one of the more widely respected players in the clubhouse, and he was a popular figure among fans. The Red Sox made a strong push to keep him, but the Tigers had made Martinez their top priority.
Martinez saw some of his ex-teammates when the Red Sox made the trip to Lakeland, Fla., for a Spring Training game in March, but he missed several others who weren't on the travel roster. Just as important, he didn't see many of the fans.
Those fans booed him in 2007, when he and the Indians were trying to finish out the American League Championship Series and earn a World Series berth. They cheered him heartily two years later, when the Indians dealt him.
"The fans are great if you play for them, but they can be really tough when you play against them," he said. "It's fun, though. They're great fans. They really support their teams 100 percent. The time I was there, we'd be losing 10-0, 13-1, and they always stay there and wait for the 27th out. For me, and I think for most players, that's something to be proud of, having the fans back you up and give you great support. They're great fans.
"But it's fun. Before, I went out there as a visitor, and they were tough. I was there for a year and a half, and they were great. I'd rather have them on my side. But it's all good, man. They're great fans. It's something else."
Leyland encouraged by Boesch's bat
DETROIT -- Statistically, outfielder Brennan Boesch is slowing down from his hot start, going 6-for-27 over his last seven games. From a contact standpoint, manager Jim Leyland sees signs of encouragement.
"I think Boesch is doing fine," Leyland said on Tuesday. "He struck two balls right on the button last night. He's dunked in a couple of hits. He's hit the ball hard right at somebody and hit one into left-center against Minnesota. I mean, that's just the way the game goes.
"I don't think he's really in any kind of a slump. I don't consider it a slump. He hit the ball hard twice last night. He could have had two hits."
With Magglio Ordonez on the disabled list, Boesch has been batting in the third spot against right-handed pitchers, with Ryan Raburn batting there against left-handers.