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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.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tigers reactivate Smyly, send him to Toledo

Part of the reason the Tigers felt the need to trade for a starting pitcher was the uncertainty attached to dependence on a rookie like Drew Smyly.

As well as he'd done in his first season above Double-A, there were concerned eyes in the organization watching his workload from the earliest part of the season, cautious plans made to limit his innings the further he went along.

"The common sense factor tells you that we were going to watch his innings. We’ve had two unfortunate circumstances that have really forced us to do that more than we would’ve had to or wanted to. We had a planned laid out for him. It’s something that you just take advantage of," manager Jim Leyland said at the beginning of the last homestand. "Who knows? Maybe that’s the good Lord telling us not to push him this year."

While a pair of injuries (blister, intercostal strain) may have helped limit his innings naturally, they did nothing to eliminate the principal uncertainty the Tigers had: Would they be able to depend on him during the stretch run?

"Well, I think it’s just an uncertainty at this point. He’s going to start throwing, so he is OK to do that. But that still is a couple week process, when you start getting involved with that. It played a factor," said general manager Dave Dombrowski during the conference call, after the five-player trade that landed them a veteran replacement in the form of right-hander Anibal Sanchez.

Where did that leave Smyly?

"I can’t answer that question at this point. We’ll just wait and see when he’s healthy," Dombrowski said at the time.

At this point, it appears he'll be a very cushy insurance policy.

The Tigers activated him Sunday from the 15-day disabled list, and sent him to Triple-A Toledo, where he'll make a start Tuesday. He'd been on the DL since the All-Star Break, after feeling the tweak in his last start, on July 6.

Could the Tigers still end up using Smyly, if someone gets hurt, or completely implodes? Sure. Could he be a bullpen option when rosters expand in September? Also sure.

But Monday's trade meant they didn't have to. And it made Smyly a luxury item: a big league-ready lefty who can start if called upon, a guy they can stash at Toledo until they need him again.


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