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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

UPDATED: Alburquerque headed to DL; Oliveros called up from Toledo

The Tigers have made it official that phenom rookie reliever Al Alburquerque is headed to the 15-day disabled list with "right forearm flexor mass inflammation." They've called up Lester Oliveros to fill his spot on the active roster.

John Wagner of the Toledo Blade first reported Thursday night that the Tigers had promoted the fireballing youngster Oliveros from Triple-A Toledo, and replaced him on the Mud Hens roster with Chance Ruffin from Double-A Erie.

Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi later reported that the Tigers had placed Alburquerque on the disabled list. Alburquerque struggled through 42 pitches in 1 1/3 innings in Detroit's 16-9 loss to the Mets Wednesday.

Oliveros is a fireballer with a mid-90s fastball and control issues (his WHIP at Toledo was 1.54), but he was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 27/4 at Erie before earning his last promotion. Ruffin was one of the Tigers' two supplemental first-round draft picks in 2010. He had a 2.12 ERA in 34 innings at Erie, limiting opposing hitters to a .190 average.

Alburquerque leads all American League relievers with 14.59 strikeouts per nine innings, and is tied for the AL lead in relief wins (5). He has stranded 21 of 23 inherited runners and allows opponents to hit just .147 against him — second-best among AL relievers.

"He was a godsend. If it wasn’t for Alburquerque, we’d be six or seven games less than we are right now," manager Jim Leyland said last weekend of the rookie who has taken a lot of the high-leverage innings late in ballgames this year.
"You could make a case for — without getting carried away — you could make a case for obviously (Justin) Verlander, obviously (Jose) Valverde. But you could make a case for Alburquerque after that being our most valuable pitcher up to this point."

The Tigers had hopes that Joel Zumaya and Ryan Perry would be able to handle that seventh-inning role this season, but injuries and inefficiency has precluded either pitcher from stepping forward, forcing the Tigers to turn to Alburquerque.

"We’re Zumaya-less, obviously, and we were basically Perry-less, so this was a godsend. This has turned out to be a great sign. And I thought it was a great sign when I saw him in spring training, but I wasn’t sure what would happen," Leyland said. "When I saw him in spring training, I thought ‘Wow. This is some kind of slider with some kind of arm.’ I don’t know if he’ll throw it in the ocean. But he's been fantastic. He's saved us."

Alburquerque's disabled list stint is retroactive to June 30, making him eligible to come off the DL on July 15, for the Tigers' first game after the All-Star break, the start of a three-game series in Chicago.

In other injury news, Carlos Guillen's injury rehab assignment was transferred from Class A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo. That's a good sign for the likelihood of him coming back sooner rather than later, since it's likely more about timing rather than health at this point.

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