DETROIT -- Though both Andy Oliver and Charlie Furbush will most likely be in Tigers uniforms this weekend, that doesn't necessarily mean anything for the future of Phil Coke, whose injury opened up a rotation spot for Oliver.
Leyland worked to cool recent speculation that Oliver's return could be a longer-term move, shifting Coke to the bullpen.
"There was never any talk about putting Coke back in the bullpen," Leyland said. "Somebody mentioned that to me. That's absolutely not true at this stage, nor has it been up to this stage. And it's still not at this stage."
For Wilk, bigs are a dream come true
DETROIT -- Adam Wilk still has the middle finger on his glove hand taped up as a good luck charm, which he does every game, whether he pitches or not. Early Tuesday morning, he got a call out of the blue from his Triple-A Toledo manager, Phil Nevin, and his luck came in.
Wilk had to make sure he was awake and not dreaming, since he had gone to bed early to be ready for the Hens' Tuesday morning game.
"I was a little groggy when I was talking to him," Wilk said, "but eventually I picked up. The crazy thing is the [cell phone] service in my house is just terrible, so the phone actually cut out to start. So I go out and run outside, and I'm running into stuff because everything's dark, and I call him back. Good phone call to get."
Not one he expected. When Phil Coke was injured Monday night, Andy Oliver's return to Detroit seemed more possible than ever. Adding Wilk as an extra reliever was not.
It'll likely be a temporary stay, manager Jim Leyland hinted, and Wilk's return to Toledo could be the other end of the move to call up Oliver on Saturday. But that doesn't take away anything from Wilk pitching in the big leagues.
It's a continuation of the big impression he made in Spring Training with the club. But it's also a maturation process the 24-year-old southpaw with the funky arm angle began as a starter with the Mud Hens.
"It was continuing to go through work, but up there there's some older hitters, experienced hitters, some guys who have been playing professional baseball for 10, 12 years," Wilk said. "They've seen a lot in the game. They know what's going on. Facing those kind of hitters helps sometimes. You learn how to get those experienced hitters out."
As a starter, he learns how to get those guys out again.
"You're going to go through the lineup two, three, maybe four times," Wilk said, "and you'll be able to see numerous hitters over again. It's a good experience to face a hitter three or four times in a game, and how are you going to get him out three or four times?"
As Wilk talked, his finger was still taped up, even though the game was hours away. It'll be that way when the Tigers play Tuesday night. He has done it so many times since high school that it's now a central part of his routine.
"It will be [taped] every game," Wilk said. "It feels weird if I've got a game and I don't have it on."
Benoit fills in for Valverde at closer
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland was hoping he would need a closer Tuesday night, but wasn't initially sure who that closer would be. Joaquin Benoit started warming up for the ninth inning, but didn't know what situation he'd be warming up for.
"I think the eighth and the ninth inning is the same," Benoit said. "You still have to get three outs."
When he's right, those three outs look easier. The pitches that get them, more importantly, look free and easy. That's how he has looked over his past few outings, and on Tuesday, those three outs earned him his first save as a Tiger.
Leyland said before the game that Benoit was the "logical guy" to handle the save situation if they got it. Jose Valverde had the night off after pitching three of the last four days, though he played catch in the bullpen during the middle of the game anyway.
When Benoit started warming up in the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers were down a run after Daniel Schlereth and Alberto Alburquerque had combined to hold down the Rays in the top of the eighth. Once Alex Avila hit a go-ahead, two-run homer, Benoit was warming up for the save.
It didn't look much different. John Jaso flew out to center and Ben Zobrist lined up to first before Johnny Damon's two-out single put the potential tying run on base. Benoit closed it out with a fielder's choice grounder from Evan Longoria.
Benoit needed 15 pitches, 10 for strikes, to retire the Rays. His fastball topped out at 94 mph, according to MLB.com's Gameday application, and his delivery again looked free and easy. It felt that way to Benoit, too.
"You can feel when things are going right," he said. "Even when you release the ball, it feels better in your hands when you bring in. It's something that is positive for you, you being able to recognize what you're doing, it's great. It's a good thing."
Slowing down his mechanics, he said, made a big difference.
"It was the same as last year," he said. "Last year, at the beginning of the year, all of my pitches were high up, and I had to figure something out. When I started feeling the ball coming out good out of my hand, it was easy. It's the same here. I was going too quick to the plate, and all my pitches were up. Now, I think I've figured something out, and now everything is going downhill."
Benoit was asked whether getting the save against the Rays made any difference to him.
"Nah. It's another team that we're going to play this year," he said. "To some guys, probably it means a lot, but I think whether the Rays play or the Yankees play or anybody else, it's just another game that we're going to treat the same way. Tomorrow we're going to come back out and try to beat them again."
Charlie Furbush's victory makes him the 23rd Maine-born pitcher to earn a Major League win. Former Red Sox pitcher Bob Stanley leads the group with 115. Only one other pitcher on the list, Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer, is currently in the big leagues.
The Toledo Mud Hens granted Chris Oxspring his release, freeing the Australian reliever to pursue other opportunities, here and abroad. Oxspring went on the temporary inactive list while the Tigers explored possibilities of selling his contract abroad, including in Taiwan.
Leyland said that when Miguel Cabrera was unexpectedly caught stealing it was simply a misread on his part, trying to catch Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson by surprise. "It was not a good play, and he knew that," Leyland said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.