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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.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

COLUMN: 'Smart' decision to make Benoit closer could save Tigers come the trade deadline


DETROIT — This might seem like one of those trivia questions which play out on the big screen at Comerica Park these days: Who’s the smartest guy in the Tigers locker room?

You could make a solid case for Max Scherzer, who probably could have made a ton of money in Las Vegas or on Wall Street, if he didn’t have the unnatural ability to throw the ball really hard with his right arm.

You could make a case for his next-door neighbor in the locker room, Don Kelly, the guy Scherzer has spent hours of pregame talking to, discussing in depth things like the Big Bang theory (and, no, not the TV show).

You could also make a case for the reserved, soft-spoken, erudite Joaquin Benoit, who speaks more intelligently in his second language than most of us do in our first.

“Oh, he’s smart. He’s very bright,” said manager Jim Leyland, who years ago called Benoit the smartest player on the team. “He figures things out. He’s smart. He knows what the hitters are looking for, and he knows what the bats are telling him.”

All of those guys — and others — are completely viable choices.

But the real smartest man in the locker room might be the person who finally convinced the Tigers brain trust to move their successful set-up man, Benoit, into the vacant closer’s role.

“He comes in to close the game, just like any great closer does,” Tigers starter Doug Fister said. “That’s a tribute to the style of ball that he plays, that he has always played. We have the utmost confidence in him. He comes in, and does what he needs to do, and knows what he does, and does it very well.”

As successful as that move has been — Benoit has given up just one earned run in 13 appearances since inheriting the role when Jose Valverde was designated for assignment on June 21, recording six saves — it’s going to look all the smarter in the next handful of days.

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