DETROIT -- Quietly, because he only pitches about once every eight or nine days, left-hander reliever Darin Downs has put together a solid first month of his Major League career.
He began as the club's feel-good story -- and still is. He's the 27-year-old who took a line drive off the head playing for the Rays' Double-A squad in 2009, which fractured his skull. As a result, he needed to learn how to speak again, never mind understanding how to approach big league hitters.
It's unquestionably a great story. But what makes it even better is that he's turned his tragedy into triumph at the highest level, becoming a legitimate bullpen arm for the Tigers during his first season.
He's not often used, pitching only three times since July 17, but when he is, he's effective. Downs ate up two innings Friday night, allowing one inherited runner on third base to score, but having an otherwise flawless outing.
In seven games, he's pitched 9 2/3 innings, giving up six hits, two earned runs -- both in two innings against the Angels -- and four walks, while striking out 13. Take away the Angels game and he's allowed no runs and three hits.
"He's a pretty good pitcher. I've been impressed with him," manager Jim Leyland said Saturday. "His stuff's good ... even in Spring Training, the couple times I saw him, [his stuff] looked better than I expected it to be."
Leyland only saw Downs a few times because a blister limited the lefty in the spring. Therefore, Downs wasn't able to audition as he would've liked for that last bullpen opening.
As he's had to do often, Downs took the tough path. He started in Triple-A Toledo, where he posted a 2.15 ERA in 25 games before eventually earning a promotion on July 3. Downs credited his success so far from carrying over the momentum he built in the Minors.
"I had a great year down in Triple-A," Downs said. "When I got up here, I'm just taking it day by day and outing by outing and just trying to throw the ball well every time out. Do the best I can and help the team anyway I can or they need. I feel like I've been doing well."
As far as his seldom usage goes, the lefty said his lack of appearances just means the starting rotation is doing an excellent job, pitching deep into games and giving the bullpen plenty of off-days.
"If it's been a couple days for me, I just go out to the mound and I throw 10 or 12 [pitches] and then wait a couple days," said Downs on staying sharp. "If I don't get in, I do it again ... The bullpen's been pretty fresh. It's been nice. I'm not overworked or anything. It's been fun."
Tigers honor former All-Star shortstop Guillen
DETROIT -- The Tigers honored their former All-Star shortstop, Carlos Guillen, before Saturday's game for his induction into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame.
Guillen, who was the guest of honor as the annual Fiesta Tigres luncheon on Friday, was dressed in a sport coat and tie as he received a plaque from the Hall of Fame honoring his induction. The Tigers also presented him with a framed jersey from his playing days.
It was a fitting tribute for a player who was one of the cornerstones of the Tigers' turnaround from 119 losses in 2003 to the World Series three years later and perennial contender after that. Guillen hit .320 with 41 doubles, 19 homers, 85 RBIs and a .920 OPS in that 2006 season, then batted .296 with nine triples, 21 homers and 102 RBIs the next year.
Injuries slowly ate away at his seasons after that, and he retired this spring, but he looked healthy as he jogged out to the mound and fired a ceremonial first pitch, shortstop style, to former teammate Ramon Santiago.
Coke makes tweaks to delivery in side session
DETROIT -- Phil Coke spent Friday afternoon working with pitching coach Jeff Jones in an extended side session to try to make some mechanical tweaks. He probably won't have to wait long to figure out if the tweaks make a difference.
Coke said Friday night that one of the adjustments was on his leg action, to try to get him to turn his hips more and get more velocity out of his pitches. Another adjustment that Jones pointed out was to keep Coke's hands from moving so much in his delivery.
To say Coke's recent work has been a concern would be an understatement. He gave up three runs on five hits with four outs in two outings at Boston earlier in the week. He had allowed a run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings in his previous eight appearances combined.
Some of that can be chalked up to the ups and downs of a reliever in a season. Still, Coke's particular struggles against left-handed hitters -- remember the walk to young left-handed hitter Ryan Kalish and the home run to Carl Crawford Wednesday at Fenway Park -- were a surprise to both the Tigers and himself.
"You can compare film between last year and this year," Coke said Saturday. "All you have to do is look at the tempo and you can see a massive difference. That alone, the tempo in which I work, is a totally different thing."
For the year, left-handed batters are hitting .261 (23-for-88) against Coke, 46 points higher than last year. Right-handed hitters, meanwhile, are batting .381 (32-for-84) off him, a 67-point rise from 2011 and 105 points higher than 2010.
Leyland taking advantage of matchups
DETROIT -- When Tigers manager Jim Leyland inferred he was going to use matchups, it wasn't just about stacking left-handed hitters against right-handers. He showed that on Saturday, when he returned Delmon Young to the lineup against Indians righty Ubaldo Jimenez.
Young entered the night batting 10-for-23 against Jimenez for his career. Andy Dirks, who essentially started in his place Friday, is 2-for-15 off Jimenez.
"We've got some maneuverability now," Leyland said. "This gives us some options ... and that's the way I like to manage, when you have those options and everybody chipping in. You've got to believe what stuff tells you.
"If you play [Young] or anybody that's hitting .450 against an opposing pitcher, then you might as well never look at any statistics."
Brennan Boesch, however, remained in the fifth spot behind Prince Fielder. Young batted sixth, the same place he hit Wednesday in Boston. Leyland wants him to settle into that spot, given the importance of having a productive bat behind the duo of Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.
Look for some similar decisions on Sunday, when the Indians call up left-hander Chris Seddon from Triple-A. Left-handed hitters in the International League are batting just .194 (20-for-103) off Seddon this year, compared with a .261 (92-for-352) average and 15 homers from right-handed hitters.
Whether that means a start for Ryan Raburn remains to be seen. He has started only one game for the Tigers since July 22, partly because of all the right-handers the Tigers have been facing, mostly because he batted just .149 (7-for-47) in July.
Leyland saddened by Kelly waiver move
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland admitted that Friday's move to designate Don Kelly's contract for assignment was one that "makes you cry. Believe it or not, I do have some feelings."
Now comes the second part, to see whether Kelly will stay in the organization or be claimed by another club on waivers. That should have an answer sometime next week.
On the one hand, Kelly's stats this season, including a .175 average (18-for-103) and four extra-base hits, shouldn't suggest a whole lot of interest. But then, his ability to not only play all over the field but play most of those positions well, could be appealing to a team with a larger pitching staff and a limited bench.
Unlike trade waivers, which are more in the news this time of year, Kelly's waivers are irrevocable. He cannot be pulled back if he's claimed.
Daniel Schlereth struck out one batter and walked another Friday night in his first rehab appearance for Class A Lakeland.
ESPN's Hit Tracker Online estimated Prince Fielder's home run on Friday night at 432 feet. His double off the wall in right-center field was also estimated at 432 feet, according to ESPN Stats and Info, and would have been a home run in 28 other Major League parks.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.