Darin was a feel-good story in 2012 as he made his major league debut with Detroit. He suffered a traumatic head injury from a line drive in a minor league game in 2009. Downs made 18 appearances in 2012 and was positioned for a larger role in the 2013 bullpen. By early July he had made pitched in 26 games but his ERA had climbed to 5.18. He was shut down with a shoulder injury. After a good showing in 12 games in Toledo, with an ERA of 2.30 and WHIP of 0.96, his season appeared to be over.
In early September the Tigers were looking for more left-handed options for the postseason roster. On September 10, with Phil Coke somewhere between struggling and injured, Downs was called back to Detroit. Darin made three appearances, allowing no hits or runs and only one walk. But on the ALCS roster, Jose Alvarez was awarded the last spot as a third lefty option in the ‘pen.
Downs allowed left-handed hitters a miserly .202 batting average and a .293 slugging percentage during his two years in Detroit. Against right-handed hitters, it was a gruesome .301 batting average and .496 slugging percentage. Which leads one to wonder why he was allowed to pitch to 131 righties and only 106 lefties.
The Tigers have holes to fill, and left-handed bullpen arms are now even more significant. Drew Smyly is the best option, but soon a starter will be lost and he will inevitably join the rotation. Phil Coke is more likely to be back for 2014 with Downs gone. Jose Alvarez could play a larger role in 2014, but is not seen as a dominant arm.
Kyle Lobstein, Blaine Hardy, Casey Crosby, Kenny Faulk, and Matt Hoffman are lefties who pitched in Toledo in 2014. The door could be open for one, and Faulk does have impressive strikeout numbers, but the list serves more to show that Dave Dombrowski will be signing a few lefties this winter.
We are left to wonder how the season would have turned out had Darin Downs, rather than Joaquin Benoit, been pitching to David Ortiz in game two of the ALCS.