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

Sunday, April 7, 2013

New chairman for the committee? All things equal, Leyland may be leaning toward Benoit in the 9th


DETROIT — There is no change in the makeup of the committee, but there might be a new chairman.

While the Tigers are still planning to go with the ‘closer-by-committee’ approach for the foreseeable future, manager Jim Leyland hinted Saturday that he might be leaning toward giving one pitcher the preponderance of chances, if things play out to plan.

“A lot of it depends on how it’s set up. Right now, we’re just kind of mixing and matching. Right now, if I had my — most likely what we’re going to try to do — as I say, we will use anybody, but the ideal situation, probably as we sit right now, is probably to get Benoit for the ninth inning,” the manager said.

“Now, I’m not saying Benoit is the closer. Please don’t say that.

“What I’m saying is, we figure the lefty-righty combination, with him being effective against both guys, if rested and available, you would lean that way probably more often than not. But I don’t want that to be interpreted as, all of a sudden, Benoit is the closer. That’s not what I’m saying.”

Part of the consideration is the fact that, of the veterans back-end arms, Benoit has the closest to a neutral split versus left-handed and right-handed pitchers. Right-handers hit .217 off Benoit last season, while lefties hit .237, with only slightly less power.

He’s just not been slotted in the ninth inning that much as a Tigers reliever, considering he’d been the primary set-up man to Jose Valverde each of his first two years here.

Twenty-three of his 69 appearances in 2012 came in the ninth inning or later, while just 15 of 64 appearances were later than normal in his first season in Detroit.

“It’s different. Those last three (outs) are different than the other 24,” said Leyland of the ninth inning, admitting he’s of “mixed feelings” about whether it’s better to have established roles in the bullpen or not. “I think anytime that you can be specific, it’s probably advantageous to a guy. But I also think that when you’re a bullpen guy, you’re supposed to come here every day, ready to pitch whenever you’re called on.”

Even with a new chairman to the committee, that will still remain the norm for the Tigers’ pen for now: Be ready whenever.

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