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Bad stretch or bad omen? Tigers' bullpen not missing many bats

Chris McCosky, The Detroit News on

Published in Baseball

DETROIT — It’s always a mistake to overreact to a small sample size, especially in a six-month, 162-game season.

But we’re human. It’s hard to look upon this recent stretch of games and not be at least a little concerned about the Tigers’ bullpen. It’s been tagged for 38 runs over the last seven games before Tuesday.

Alex Lange, one of the back-end pillars, has been optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Shelby Miller, another back-end, path-to-victory option for manager AJ Hinch has been on the injured list since May 12 with a nerve issue in his elbow. He was scheduled to make his first rehab outing at Triple-A Toledo Tuesday.

Jason Foley, who had essentially served as the unlabeled closer for most of April, has had his struggles and is working through a mechanical adjustment.

That’s put an extraordinary burden on lefties Tyler Holton and Andrew Chafin, plus right-hander Will Vest, who Hinch is now mixing and matching to get through the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

“We are willing to go any route to get to the finish line,” Hinch said Tuesday, before the game with the Pirates was postponed due to rainstorms in the area. “Depending on what happens in the game and we how we get there and what their appetite to pinch-hit is and who they have available.

 

“It’s always changing given that we have a flexible bullpen and no defined roles.”

The flexibility has served the Tigers well, especially earlier in the season when Hinch could play matchup games in the seventh and eighth, knowing Foley would be there for most situations in the ninth.

That security net doesn’t feel as secure these days.

“The lineup we face is always going to add a little something different (to how he uses the bullpen),” Hinch said. “We went into a couple of series where there were a boatload of left-handed hitters and that got Chafin in the game more and then Holton in the back end.”

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