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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.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tigers go back to mixing and matching for 9th inning, as closer situation continues to resemble 'Days of Our Lives'


DETROIT — If only Macdonald Carey were still alive to do the voice-over for the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen: “These are the Days of Our Lives.”

Even the team’s manager, Jim Leyland, admits his closer situation has become a daily drama, akin to a soap opera, like the one that opened with Carey’s famous line.

What is he going to do in the ninth inning?

Tune in later to see.

“Hope we’ve got the lead. It’s ‘Days of Our Lives.’ You’ll have to find out tonight,” he said, tongue-in-cheek, before Monday night’s game.

On Sunday, Leyland used set-up man Joaquin Benoit for one out in the eighth, then brought him back for the ninth. It was his fourth save of the campaign.

Monday, Leyland used lefty Drew Smyly for the final three innings of the game, after Max Scherzer pitched six stellar innings, moving to 10-0 on the season. It was Smyly’s second three-inning save of the year.

“It worked out pretty well for us tonight, and hopefully we can just kind of mix and match, use Papa Grande (Jose Valverde), use Benoit, use Cokey (Phil Coke), and just see what it sets up each night, and what the situation looks like,” Leyland said.

Given that it’s the fourth change of direction in philosophy for how to close out games — starting with rookie Bruce Rondon in spring training, then starting the regular season with a closer-by-committee-that-wasn’t-really-a-committee situation, then adding Valverde, and now back to what appears to be a committee — you can see the resemblance to a daily soap opera.

The only thing that’s been consistent is inconsistency.

“I like what we’ve got, and truthfully, we don’t totally, totally have our furniture arranged in the bullpen,” Leyland said.

“There’s no question about that.

“We were in the process of trying to get it arranged before we got Valverde, and we’ve tried to get it arranged since we’ve had Valverde, that’s what we’ll continued to try to do.”

How about buying some new furniture?

“Well, that’s easy to say, but you can’t go and buy a shirt for $5,000 and put it on, and it doesn’t look good, so you throw that away and go get another one for $5,000. It doesn’t work that way,” Leyland said. “That’s not fair to the owner.”

Although Leyland insists he never gets too high or too low, riding the ups and downs of the season, the constant turmoil has created some stress for him — something that he jokingly dismisses.

“Well, (Baltimore’s Manny) Machado leads the league in doubles, and I’m about second in doubles. Double vodka, double Scotches,” he said with a laugh. “No, I’m just kidding. Don’t make it sound like that, because I rarely drink.”

But he does understand how fans might panic just a little bit.

And he does understand all the efforts to suggest a change in direction for the Tigers’ relief corps that belies last week’s “Who the (bleep) should I be closing with?” rant.

He just doesn’t have any definitive answers, any more than any of them do.

“Absolutely. That’s baseball conversation, and I’m thankful that we have that. Means that people are interested in us,” Leyland said Monday.

“I think there are some people that make very legitimate points, from a fan standpoint. I think there are some very legitimate points from a fan standpoint, on Twitter, or whatever you call it. I think there are some very legitimate points on talk shows, but I also think there are some foolish points, with people grasping at straws, and coming up with stuff that’s silly.

“But I think there’s a lot of good thought process by the fans. I have no issue with that.

“I wish I had answers for them, but I don’t. I gotta try to do the best I can with this unit. Like I said, everybody’s got an idea there’s a problem. Like I said the other day, it’s like telling me I’m bald. ‘Well, no (bleep). Can you tell me how to grow hair?’ ‘No, I don’t have any idea how to grow hair.’

“It’s what I said the other day, I’ll stick to it. I love when people are talking about the Tigers, and second-guess at times. When stuff’s legitimate ... it’s not so far-fetched that they’re talking about (Rick) Porcello as the closer. I don’t think that’s far-fetched. I don’t think that’s silly.

“But right now is not a time for that. We have information that we see going on, we think right now that that’s not the best thing for Rick Porcello or our club right now. We think he’s doing really well, and I like the fact that we’ve got five guys that — knock on wood — have been keeping us in games all the time. That’s pretty important.

“If you don’t have good starters, you very rarely have anything to close.

“I love good ideas, and to talk about stuff. But it’s just not that simple.

“People say ‘Well, why don’t you do this ...’ or ‘Why don’t you do that ...’ Well, we don’t just come to eat our lunch.”

While he opened the door by saying it was not a far-fetched idea to propose a starter as a closer, he closed the door after the game, reiterating that now is not the time to talk about something like that.

“One thing I wanna say though is I hope — I’m asking a favor of all you guys — I hope that everyone quits going to Rick Porcello and asking him about being the closer. He is not going to be the closer. He is not a closer,” Leyland said in his postgame media session. “There’s no sense going to Rick and asking him about it, because it’s just not necessary. So I would appreciate if people would just drop that subject with him, because we want him to concentrate on what he’s doing right now as a starter.”

Exactly.

Why bring in MORE drama?

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