Who's closing for the Tigers? At this point, the answer appears to be "a little bit of everybody."
Monday, left-handed reliever Drew Smyly pitched the final three innings to preserve a 5-1 victory, netting him the save. But he's not actually the closer. He just happened to the guy on the mound mowing through the Orioles' lineup.
The next time the Tigers have a late innings lead, it could be lefty Phil Coke. Maybe right-handed setup man Joaquin Benoit. Or yes, it could even be Jose Valverde. That's what Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the media Monday.
"I have a thought process before the game," Leyland said, as quoted by Jason Beck and Bobby Nightengale of MLB.com, "but sometimes that changes. If you look at what happened [Sunday], their lineup that happened to come up in that inning dictated that. I thought Benoit's repertoire was better for that."
So, essentially we're back where we started in April. Closer by committee, minus rookie Bruce Rondon (for now, anyway.) Truly there's no reason to chase the save stat. Just play the pitchers who'll get the job done in that situation. That's really all that matters.
But how long will it last? That remains to be seen. It doesn't seem to be Leyland's favorite way of doing things, and I have a feeling he'll settle into one player or another before too long. That, of course, is part of the reason the Tigers ended up with Valverde again in the first place, isn't it?
So, I guess we'll see.
And then there's this related, yet more colorful quote, or as the Oakland Press' Matthew B Mowery called it, Leyland's daily soliloquy. This was delivered sans bleeps, and seemed to clarify Leyland's position on the team's late-innings problems.
"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.
"It's a thought process. We like our five starters right now, and I'm not going to change our five starters right now. ... I like what we've got, and truthfully, we don't totally, totally have our furniture arranged in the bullpen.
"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."
Q: People think you should trade for more 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. That's not fair to the owner."
(Side note: Whoever asked the follow-up question there: Awesome work.)
In short, the Tigers are a work in progress today so they won't have to be in October. And as I've said many times before, that's a good thing.