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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, April 26, 2012

Call-up to the 'pen: Tigers send Weber down, call up Putkonen

Who’s next?

The Tigers have not made three roster moves in a five-day span, looking for help for a bullpen that’s been overworked by a less-than-effective rotation. 

The latest was Thursday morning, when the club optioned Thad Weber back to Triple-A Toledo, and purchased the contract of right-handed reliever Luke Putkonen.

“Well, first of all, Putkonen’s throwing the ball very well for us at Triple-A, but in addition ... we’re also in a spot where today, Weber’s not going to be able to pitch today, Putkonen could pitch for us,” Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski said. “The combination of he and (Brayan) Villarreal gives us a couple more power arms out in the ‘pen.”

A third-round draft pick in 2007, the 6-foot-6 Putkonen went 3-13 combined with a 6.44 ERA at Class-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie last year, but sported a 1-0 record and 1.38 ERA in six apperances for Triple-A Toledo this season.

The Tigers recalled Villarreal after Wednesday’s game, sending starter Adam Wilk back to Toledo. They’d had to wait the mandated 10 days to bring Villarreal back after he’d originally been sent down on April 14.

Weber had been up since Saturday, when he was called up between games of the doubleheader with Texas in which the Tigers had to use seven pitchers.

Thanks to that twinbill and an 11-inning game Sunday, as well as some tragically short outings by starters, the Tigers have had to use the bullpen for 31 innings in the the last week, or an average of more than five innings per game.

Not a formula for success.

“I’m concerned that we’re using the bullpen too much. ... You just had to be careful. You can’t be crazy and hurt people. You have to watch pitches, and stuff. ... It’s one of the things I always talk about: When you’re using the bullpen because you want to, and not because you have to that’s a good thing. When you’re using it because you have to, that’s not a good thing,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after Wednesday’s game.
“You don’t like it to happen at any time. But they’re beating up on us pretty good. Three of our last five starts have not been good. We’ve been in the bullpen. ... That’s not a good thing when you’re in the bullpen first, second inning, third inning, three out of five nights, that’s not healthy for your bullpen.”

The starter for Thursday’s matinee with the Mariners, Rick Porcello, was one of the culprits, going just more than an inning in the first game of Saturday’s double-header, giving up eight earned runs on 10 hits.


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