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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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Below sent down to get some work at Toledo; Putkonen recalled

It’s almost a no-win situation for a guy like Duane Below.

If you never see a team’s long reliever, it means the starters are probably doing pretty well — and by extension, so is the team.

Duane Below hadn’t gotten a lot of work of late — just 9 1/3 innings pitched in four second-half appearances, after 36 innings before the All-Star break — which is good for the Tigers, but not so good for him.

The rust was evident in Monday’s game, as Below was called upon to keep a 5-1 game close, but instead allowed the Twins a second straight three-run inning, as they blew it open for a 9-3 win.

After the game, the Tigers sent Below to Triple-A Toledo, recalling right-hander Luke Putkonen in his place.

“Well, he really hasn’t gotten that much opportunity to be sharp, to be honest with you, in the role that he’s in, so we’re going to send him down and hopefully sharpen him up. It’s a little unfair to ask a guy to do sometimes what we ask him to do, but at the same time, when you’re in the Major Leagues, you have to be able to do that: You have to be able to sit and then come in,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

“When it’s 5-1, you’ve got to be able to hold it a little bit, and like I said, he’s struggled with that a little bit. So we’re just making the move, get Putkonen up here.”

Among the mounting concerns that Leyland has in his bullpen, figuring out ways to get a guy like Below innings was about the last thing he could concern himself with.

“I don’t worry about it. If I’m not getting him work, that’s a good thing. And I don’t mean that disrespectfully, because he’s done a great job. But if you don’t need your long man, that’s a great thing. ... if you’re getting your long man lots of work, that’s a bad thing,” the manager said in the middle of the last home stand, right before he did indeed need Below to eat up some innings.

“That’s what a long guy does. If he can’t do that, he’s not going to be a good long guy in the big leagues. And he’s good at it. I talked to him yesterday, told him to just be patient with me. He’s not a forgotten guy.”

With Below optioned out, that leaves the Tigers with just two lefties on the big-league roster — Darin Downs and Phil Coke. Downs has pitched very well, but Coke has struggled mightily.

“After we’re down 5-1 when he comes out, I didn’t want to use Cokie up, obviously. You gotta be able to stop it, and we haven’t been able to stop it. We’ve been giving up some add-on runs,” Leyland said in the understatement of the month.

“It starts with the starting pitching, and Anibal (Sanchez) just didn’t have a very good start tonight. ... I certainly know he’s a better pitcher than he’s shown so far. I guess we’ll have to keep looking.”

Putkonen posted an ERA of 8.59 in 7 1/3 innings with the big-league club earlier this season, but had pitched reasonably well in Toledo of late. Eight of the 17 earned runs he allowed in his last 10 appearances for the Mud Hens came in a catastrophic outing against Columbus on July 25, when he gave up 10 hits and nine runs in 1 1/3 innings.


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