Walking seven batters in your last 5 1/3 innings is no way to get through life, son. I don't know if those were the exact words that Jim Leyland used while informing Zach Miner that he was being sent down to Triple-A Toledo, but what he actually said couldn't have been much different.
With the emergence of Freddy Dolsi and the return of Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya to the Tigers' bullpen, Miner was seeing his role increasingly marginalized. Yet with no one standing out as the sort of lock-down reliever that made Detroit so fearsome in 2006, Miner continued to get chances in middle relief, especially as a bridge between the starting pitcher and the set-up crew. But games can get out of hand or out of reach when pitchers come in and walk batters. Obviously, Leyland had seen enough of that from Miner. Tuesday's four-walk, 49-pitch outing (over two innings) was the breaking point.
"We want Zach to work on all three of his pitches and have a little better command," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's (gone) back to 3-2 on too many hitters and to walking too many guys.
Taking Miner's spot in the bullpen will be Aquilino Lopez, who was supposed to be getting "stretched out" in anticipation of him helping out as a starting pitcher, if needed. Perhaps that's still the role Detroit has in mind for him, but for now, they just want someone who can come in from the bullpen and throw strikes.
Meanwhile, Leyland said that Miner would be starting in Toledo, which would allow him to work on all of his pitches, but particularly his change-up. Having to pace himself and stretch out might also compel Miner to ease up on the throttle.
"When he is [throwing] 93-94, he's not as good as he is when he is 91-92," Leyland said. "I think sometimes when you start, you back off a little bit because you don't throw that same pace, and you become better -- you have better control."
Besides giving him the opportunity to tune up his pitching repertoire, could this also be an indication that the Tigers think Miner could now help them more as a starter? He started 16 games for Detroit in 2006, going 7-6 with a 5.31 ERA. With questions remaining about Eddie Bonine and the lack of a track record to judge Armando Galarraga on, that might end up being a greater need for the team.