Inside Pitch: Various 'Pen Roles

Once the bullpen was fully healthy, it appeared as if manager Jim Leyland had found his bullpen rotation, with Joel Zumaya pitching the 7th, Fernando Rodney pitching the 8th, and Todd Jones closing it out. But in the past couple games, both Zumaya and Rodney have pitched more than one inning - and that's not a coincidence.

"By the book" doesn't make it for Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

Compartmentalized use of bullpens is fairly routine. 'A' works the sixth, 'B' comes in for the seventh, 'C' is the setup man and 'D' is the closer. The lines get blurred only when one of the pitchers needs a day off.

Leyland indicated during spring training he wanted his pitchers to know he'd use any of them at any time to get a big out or two. He also indicated he'd prefer Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones to work in that order.

But in the last two games, he's gone against that mode even though all three pitchers were available.

Tuesday, he bypassed Zumaya in order to work Rodney more than an inning. Wednesday, he worked Zumaya 1 2/3 innings but gave Rodney the day off.

His reasoning? He wanted to have all his late-inning pitchers capable of going more than just three outs per appearance.

You never know, he reasons, when something out of the ordinary might be needed. And it's nice to be ready.

REPLAY: Consecutive home runs by Brandon Inge and Curtis Granderson plus a solid start by rookie Justin Verlander powered the Detroit Tigers to a 6-3 victory Wednesday night over Baltimore.

Second baseman Placido Polanco, back in the lineup after missing four games with a sore back, doubled in the first and scored on a double by right fielder Magglio Ordonez, who scored on a single by shortstop Carlos Guillen.

Inge belted his home run with two teammates on in the seventh and Granderson followed with a solo shot to expand the margin to 6-1.

Verlander limited the Orioles to one run through six innings, but left with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh. Joel Zumaya came in and two runs scored on a hit batter and a sacrifice fly.

Zumaya worked a scoreless eighth and Todd Jones finished up for his seventh save.

--RHP Justin Verlander was a little wild but a lot effective Wednesday night in winning his fourth game in seven decisions.

Verlander walked three, two in the seventh, and gave up seven hits, but held Baltimore to just one run until leaving.

He couldn't effectively throw his curve in his previous start and appeared to be limiting his use of it in this start.

--1B Chris Shelton returned to the Detroit lineup Wednesday night, but he was hitting seventh instead of his usual sixth.

Shelton went hitless, but he walked once as his batting average slipped to .294. Shelton didn't start Tuesday but did pinch-hit a single.

He's swinging at too many balls and taking too many strikes, his manager said.

"My average, obviously, says I'm in a slump," said Shelton, 5 for 27 this month. "But I can tell you 10 balls I hit hard that were right at people -- and if they're not right at people, I'm not in a slump according to my average. But what do you do? It's just part of baseball and you just keep going at it."

--RF Magglio Ordonez didn't hit his fifth home run in as many games Wednesday, but that doesn't mean his bat cooled down.

Ordonez had an RBI double in the first and later added a single. He's already got more than half the RBI he had all last season (46).

--CF Curtis Granderson doesn't have a classic leadoff man batting average, but he seems to be doing the job well enough for manager Jim Leyland.

Granderson hit a home run Wednesday night at Baltimore in Detroit's 6-3 victory over the Orioles. His batting average is only .254, but he's reached base in 22 of the last 24 games in which he's started.

He had two hits Wednesday and Leyland likes both his slugging percentage and the way the left-handed batter hangs in against left-handed pitchers.

--RHP Todd Jones didn't take long to bounce back from his first blown save of the season.

Jones was called on Wednesday night to protect Detroit's 6-3 lead over Baltimore and faced four batters in closing out the game for his seventh save.

Jones had converted his first six chances of the season before coughing up a lead Saturday night in Minnesota. He needed just 12 pitches to work the ninth Wednesday.

--2B Placido Polanco returned to the Detroit lineup Wednesday night after missing four games due to a sore lower back.

Polanco doubled his first time up, and that offered evidence his back had been bothering him for some time. It was only Polanco's second double of the season.

Tigs Town Top Stories