Just over a month ago, Tiger Town turned its hungry eyes toward Francisco Cruceta, hoping he was the fix for a leaky bullpen. And after three scoreless outings, it looked as if Jim Leyland might have a reliable guy to call upon in late innings. But then Cruceta showed he wasn't a lights-out reliever, blowing what looked like a sure win when he served up a three-run homer to Mike Lowell.
Cruceta didn't allow a run for another six appearances, but it was his last three that finally made the Tigers feel as if he couldn't be trusted. Most troubling was the grand slam he coughed up to Jason Kubel just over a week ago, squandering an excellent start by Justin Verlander, and giving away another win that has unfortunately become all too precious for Detroit this season. From there, Cruceta blew an eighth-inning lead in Anaheim and then couldn't keep the game tied last night in Oakland, wasting terrific starts by Jeremy Bonderman and Kenny Rogers, respectively.
With Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya progressing through their rehabilitations, along with Denny Bautista, and getting ready to rejoin the Tigers' bullpen, Cruceta's spot on the pitching staff was looking less secure by the day. But by becoming unreliable when the team needed him in late innings, he really made the decision easy for Detroit. Perhaps the only surprise is that it was Casey Fossum being called up, instead of a more familiar face, that pushed Cruceta out.
What a waste of the excellent nickname Matt gave Cruceta when he joined the Tigers in New York.
With no minor league options remaining, the Tigers risk losing Cruceta by designating him for assignment. One of the readers at The Detroit Tigers Weblog sat next to a National League scout who was quite enamored with Cruceta's stuff, so you'd have to think he might not sneak through waivers without being claimed. And that would be a shame, because maybe Cruceta just needs some time (and maybe a bit less pressure) to straighten himself out. He'd be quite a weapon to bring in around the sixth inning or so. But at this point, the Tigers can't keep watching him blow games while he tries to get it together.