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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to defend their three straight American League Central titles.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tigers announce playoff roster, focus on versatility


Versatility was the key word when the Detroit Tigers finally released their playoff roster for the American League Division Series prior to Saturday’s Game 1.

Manager Jim Leyland and his coaching staff were unanimous in their selections for the roster when they discussed it this week, all of them opting for the most versatile players available.

“We obviously went for versatility,” said Leyland, who turned in a roster that included guys like utility men Don Kelly, Danny Worth and Ramon Santiago, swing relievers/starters Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly, and did not include Brennan Boesch or Brayan Villarreal.

“I think we try to utilize our roster, the versatility of our roster, and I can honestly tell you that, from Dave Dombrowski, to myself to every coach, we all have the same roster.”

Boesch, who started 115 games for the Tigers in the regular season, but only 15 since Sept. 1, might have been the biggest surprise. His 10 hits in 51 at-bats in that span (a .196 average) certainly did not help. Nor did the fact that he’s not an ideal candidate to be used as a defensive replacement, nor is he a prime pinch runner. That leaves just a pinch hitting.

“I don’t think it was a tough decision; I think it was a sentimental decision. From that standpoint, it was tough, because Boesch has been here,” Leyland said. “But if you look at the way we’ve been playing lately — and been pretty successful — (he’s) not been playing. (Quintin) Berry’s been playing, and (Avisail) Garcia has been playing when they pitch a lefty. From that standpoint, it really wasn’t a tough decision from a really common-sense decision, but it was a tough decision because Boeschy has been here all year. He’s a big part of our team.

“This is not the time to get sentimental.”

Like last year, however, the Tigers did carry their fifth starter, Brad Penny, on the playoff roster, out of a sort of loyalty.

“I think you have to do things right, and I think he deserved to be on this roster,” the manager said at the time.

Porcello could find a similar long relief role this postseason, especially with the condensed schedule.

“Actually, if there would have been a rainout today (Saturday), you would have needed five starters, because there would be no day off. Porcello fills a nice role in the bullpen for us,” the manager said. “And the one thing you always sweat out if you’re a manager — and sometimes it can happen — if you happen to get into an extra-inning game in the playoffs, and you use your big guys out of the bullpen, and all of a sudden, you go two or three innings more like we did in Minnesota, then a guy like Porcello fits in there really good, because he can pitch several innings.”

Along with Phil Coke, Smyly gives the Tigers a second left-hander out of the bullpen. One of the beset young relievers for the Tigers, Villarreal had carried an ERA under 2.00 for much of the season, but had struggled of late, giving up 12 runs (11 earned) in his last 18 outings, with an ERA of 5.03, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 19/15 in 19 2/3 innings pitched.

Santiago and Worth both have the ability to play three of the four infield positions, while Kelly can play both infield and outfield, and Kelly and Worth are considerable speed upgrade as a pinch runner.

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