CHICAGO -- Manager Jim Leyland is known for playing lefty-against-righty matchups, and vice versa, to try to leverage a situation, sometimes over a hitter on a hot streak or cold spell. For the first five months, it was usually a trademark of his bench usage and lineups.
At this point, he admitted, it's just about impossible. With expanded rosters in September -- notably, bigger bullpens -- teams have too many relievers available. The way White Sox manager Robin Ventura has used his bullpen over the last four meetings between the two clubs has been an excellent example.
When Leyland used Andy Dirks to bunt two runners over in the seventh inning of a 3-2 game on Tuesday, he knew that by opening first base, he was setting up the White Sox to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera and load the bases, then bring in Donnie Veal to face Prince Fielder. Veal has yet to allow a base hit to a left-handed hitter in the big leagues this year, and he didn't on Tuesday, getting Fielder to line out before Brett Myers retired Delmon Young to end the threat.
The White Sox used six relievers on Tuesday, four of them for one out apiece after Jake Peavy left with two outs in the sixth. They used three relievers for the final four outs on Monday, and seven on Sept. 1 at Comerica Park.
"One of the biggest things about September baseball," Leyland said, "is that a left-handed hitter had better be able to get a hit off a left-handed pitcher, and a right-handed hitter off a right-handed pitcher."
Leyland is on record as supporting a change to expanded September rosters that would have teams designate a certain number of available players each night. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said on Wednesday that such restrictions have been discussed for more than a decade.
"I think a lot of people share that feeling," Dombrowski said. "For whatever reason, it's never been passed, and I'm not privy to those final conversations. I think a lot of it had to deal with, you have to negotiate, [and] you have to be in a position where the Players Association has to favor it."
Raburn's status for rest of season unknown
CHICAGO -- Ryan Raburn's spot starts appear to be done for this season, though it's not clear whether he's completely done for the year.
When manager Jim Leyland made out his lineup against White Sox righty and Tigers nemesis Gavin Floyd, he went against the batter-versus-pitcher numbers and opted for Brennan Boesch, who is 0-for-17 off Floyd, over Raburn, who's 12-for-37.
More than anything, Leyland wanted to give Boesch a chance to hit one out against a pitcher who has struggled mightily against left-handed batters this season, giving up a .314 average and .936 OPS in 271 at-bats from the left side. He also doesn't believe that Raburn is healthy.
Even if Leyland wanted to play Raburn at this point, he probably wouldn't because of his sore quadriceps, which he injured at the end of his rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo at the end of August.
"He's getting treated all the time. He's not moving around real good," Leyland said. "He obviously wasn't moving very good in the outfield [on Monday]. He wasn't running very good on the ball Miguel [Cabrera] hit. I think he's still pretty sore. It's still there."
Asked if Raburn could be limited to bench play, Leyland said, "That might be accurate, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse. You don't know."
Raburn's evaluation seemed to suggest that his quad isn't close to improving. It's bad enough, he said, that he's feeling issues in his hamstring and back trying to compensate.
"I think it's probably about as good as it's going to get until an extended period of rest," Raburn said. "It's not absolutely terrible, but I just can't go. I just can't run all the way out. It's just another obstacle I have to try to overcome.
"It's a matter of trying to battle through it and hope it doesn't get any worse. I'll just do what I can do."
If he can't, he'll finish the year with a .171 average, one home run, 14 doubles, 12 RBIs, 53 strikeouts and a .480 OPS. But even if he does get more time, it isn't going to improve the numbers much.
Raburn brushed off the "what now?" mentality, saying that a lot of people have it far worse than he does. But he acknowledged that this year has been a massive disappointment.
His hot Spring Training, he admitted, feels like years ago.
"It seems like this year has been really long," he said, "probably the longest year of my career. But people go through it. It's just a matter of how you deal with it and bounce back. I know there's a lot of good things to come. It's just this year was one of those years. It just never panned out."
Leyland explains rationale behind pulling Fister
CHICAGO -- Manager Jim Leyland faced the questions after Tuesday's win, asked why he pulled starter Doug Fister when he did. His answer had a lot more to do with setup man Joaquin Benoit.
An eighth-inning lead, Leyland said, is what Benoit is there to hold.
"I've got all the confidence in the world in Benoit," Leyland said. "I think he's one of the best setup guys in all of baseball. That's what he's down there for. After 95, 100 pitches [from the starter], that's what they're down there for. Bring in somebody fresh. You're going to leave yourself open for second-guessing, but you have to make decisions."
Benoit gave up a run -- his first run allowed in four weeks -- on three consecutive singles to make it a 5-3 game, then sent down the White Sox in order, including back-to-back three-pitch strikeouts of Kevin Youkilis and Dewayne Wise.
"Every out was important," Benoit said. "The first three hitters got on base -- makes it a little bit tough to start an inning -- and cut the lead to two runs instead of three. The strikeouts mean a lot. The ground ball would have been a double play."
Once Paul Konerko grounded out, Benoit had his 29th hold of the year, third most among Major League relievers.
Benoit's statistics entering Wednesday were almost identical to those of his 2011 season. His 61 innings matched last season's total, with 21 earned runs instead of 20, and 72 strikeouts (compared with 63 last year). The one major downside are his 11 home runs, more than double his 2011 total.
Dombrowski holding out hope for Tigers
CHICAGO -- President/general manager Dave Dombrowski didn't downplay what's at stake over the next few weeks as the Tigers try to come back in the American League Central, but he also didn't give up hope.
"We've been very inconsistent so far," Dombrowski said. "But as I've said before, we have the chance to make this a very good year or a very disappointing year. It's not over yet. We'll see which way it goes. I'm still hopeful and think -- and think -- it can be a very good year."
Dombrowski called his team's offensive inconsistencies "bewildering" and "streaky" but said it's a team that has shown it can hit for stretches.
"Just when you think it's at its lowest moment, all of a sudden, we start to swing the bats," he said. "And hopefully, that will be the case. I know they continue to work at it. [Hitting coach] Lloyd McLendon continues to work at it with the guys on a daily basis. And the one thing we have done, we have pitched very well.
"Usually, when you pitch very well, it usually ends up being good for you. So let's hope that it ends up being good for you, because we've got a lot of guys who are throwing the ball really well right now -- starters and bullpen."
Dombrowski did not talk about potential changes for next year.
"That's a story for another day," he said.