Following a 14- 4 loss to the Oakland A's, which was the third consecutive loss for the Tigers and the second dismal performance by Alvarez since being called up on August 21 to replace Phil Coke in the bullpen, the Tigers have sent Alvarez packing back to Toledo, and recalled Luke Putkonen to Detroit.
Manager Jim Leyland explained after the game that Alvarez would be called back up after the Toledo Mud Hens' season is over. The Hens play their final game on Labor Day, Monday, September 2nd. The Tigers wanted more bullpen depth following successive short outings from their normally reliable starting pitchers. Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, and Doug Fister each lasted only five innings, taxing the Tiger bullpen despite Tuesday's game being shortened to just five innings by rain.
Alvarez departs with a record of 1- 4, and an ERA of 6.14. He made just two appearances out of the bullpen, giving up two runs on four hits to Oakland in Monday's game in just one third of an inning, and surrendering five runs on five hits in 2-1/3 innings on Wednesday night.
Luke Putkonen, 27, who is listed at 6- 6, 215, was the Tigers third round selection out of North Carolina in the 2007 amateur draft. He was up previously with the Tigers this season, posting an ERA of 3.05 and a WHIP of 1.31 in 20.2 innings. In 37.2 innings with triple- A Toledo, Putkonen has an ERA of 1.91 and a WHIP of just 1.01. Over nine appearances since being sent down to Toledo, he has an ERA of 1.88 in 14-1/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and six walks.
Normally, Jim Leyland would like to call up another left handed relief pitcher to replace the lefty Alvarez, but Phil Coke is ineligible to be recalled until ten days after being sent down unless another player is placed on the major league disabled list. Any player in the minor leagues can be recalled once their minor league team's season is over.
Coke, or another left handed relief pitcher, could be recalled before the end of the month, which would make him automatically eligible to be placed on a post season roster. Otherwise, he would have to replace another injured player. The Tigers currently have just two players on the DL- Luis Marte and Octavio Dotel. Dotel is also on a rehab assignment in Toledo, leaving Marte as currently the only sure "wild card" spot for the club to add a player who is not eligible as of August 31st.
Replacing Alvarez with Putkonen gives the Tigers another fresh arm for Thursday's series finale, a day game, but it also leaves them with Drew Smyly as the only left handed pitcher on the entire pitching staff. Casey Crosby and Darin Downs are two left handers who are on the 40 man roster and currently pitching in Toledo.