Alburquerque sent down to Toledo after control issues cost Tigers
Now, it’s put him in Toledo.
The team optioned the flighty right-handed reliever to Triple-A Toledo after Wednesday's loss, and recalled the contract of right-handed reliever Evan Reed on Thursday.
Claimed off waivers from the Marlins at the start of April, Reed was 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings of work at Toledo, striking out 28 and walking seven.
Alburquerque was 0-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 15 appearances for the Tigers, including taking the loss in Wednesday’s series finale with the Houston Astros.
Called upon to get the Tigers out of an eighth-inning jam Wednesday, Alburquerque struck out Houston’s Chris Carter with two on, getting him to chase a pitch out of the zone.
But then he walked J.D. Martinez to start the ninth, forcing manager Jim Leyland to pull him out of the game in favor of lefty Phil Coke, despite Houston’s lineup sporting switch hitters in four of the next five spots.
Coke gave up an RBI double to Carlos Corporan on the first pitch he threw, scoring pinch runner Brandon Barnes from first base.
“By my own admission, I didn’t feel real comfortable doing it, because of the switch-hitters, however you can’t let him walk ‘em. That’s depressing. If I’d have felt like he was going to throw the ball over the plate, or if he’d shown any signs that he was going to throw it over the plate, I’d have obviously left him in. When you’re having trouble, and bouncing the ball, that’s not real comfortable,” Leyland said, admitting it was one of the situations he’d been talking about earlier in the day, where one reliever’s struggles can put the manager in a situation to have to use another reliever he doesn’t want to, or one that might have to be inserted in a disadvantageous situation.
“Their team overall is better against left-handers, and Alburquerque has pretty good numbers against righties and lefties. If he was throwing strikes, obviously I would’ve left him in. But he was too wild today. Just too wild. He was bouncing balls to the guy he struck out. If the guy (Carter) takes that pitch, we might have been in trouble there.
“There was twofold: When you bring Coke, you figure you’re probably going to get strikes. And the pinch runner they bring in is probably going to steal.
“But, yes, that is one of those situations. We need Albie to get us through that inning.”
And he did not.
It was not the first time, either.
Alburquerque was one of the relievers who’d been putting the Tigers in bad situations, even when they were ahead.
Sometimes, you just need a guy to get outs, even if it’s not the highest leverage situations.
“The thing that we gotta get over the hump, is that when you have to bridge that little inning or so, when you have a bigger lead, we have to make sure that the guys who are bridging that inning don’t make you get your other guys up. That’s really important,” Leyland said.
“That’s happened a couple of times, where we tried to bridge it with a bigger lead, but the guy walked a couple of guys — and I’m not indicating anybody in particular, I’m just making a point — that guy walks a couple of guys, and you end up getting somebody up you didn’t want to get up.
“And that’s not good. We gotta get better at that.”
It’s forced the Tigers to use their best relievers — including closer Jose Valverde in Tuesday night’s game — when they might otherwise not have, just to bail out their compadres.
“That’s huge when you got a four- or five-run lead with a couple innings to go, and then sometimes you’ll see — like last night, even though we decided we were going to pitch him (Valverde), you have a guy ready in case you blow a game open sometimes, and you put somebody else in. You gotta be prepared for that,” Leyland said.
“But that guy bridging that gap to give those guys a day off when they need a day off, and should get a day off, that guy has to come in and close down a five-run game, without putting you in jeopardy by walking a couple, or giving up a hit, and ending up with a run in and two guys on. Because then you have to use your other guy anyway.
“Sometimes you just say, ‘What the hell, I’m going to use him anyway. I’m not going to mess around.’ You got a game in hand, you want to win it. You don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, for sure.
“That’s why everybody on your pitching staff is really important, because the job’s different. It’s not always a hold or a save or a win. Sometimes, it’s just give us a few outs, without forcing us to get somebody up who we don’t want to get up.”
Leyland recently said that he’d all but eliminated the idea that Alburquerque was a multiple-inning reliever, and Wednesday he was asked if the issue was sitting down in the dugout at the end of one inning, then having to come back out to start a new inning.
“Can’t answer that. He got one out, and went back out, faced a right-hand hitter to start the inning. But he just didn’t throw the ball over the plate. He got the strikeout, but in actuality, the guy swung at a pitch in the dirt. The guy lays off that pitch, he walks that guy,” Leyland said.
“I don’t know. Maybe not getting enough work, or whatever. I don’t know the answer. Right now, he’s struggling a little bit with his control, certainly.”
And that’s why he’s in Toledo, rather than Texas, with the rest of the team.