Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/3/12

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 21: (EDITOR'S NOTE: IMAGES HAVE BEEN DIGITALLY DESATURATED) Manager, Jim Leyland #10 of the Detroit Tigers poses for a portrait during Photo Day on February 21, 2009 at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The latest problem facing the Detroit Tigers is left-handed relief pitching.

Manager Jim Leyland has three lefties in his bullpen, and all are showing limitations to one extent or another.

Leyland pulled Darin Downs, a journeyman who has done well as a lefty relief specialist in his rookie season, into a situation Monday requiring left-on-left effectiveness.

Downs got a strikeout to start the seventh inning but was removed after two singles sandwiched around a walk loaded the bases.

Brayan Villarreal came in and allowed a sacrifice fly that broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Cleveland Indians a 3-2 victory over Detroit, which had just swept Chicago to create a first-place tie with the White Sox in the AL Central.

Phil Coke relieved with a man on third and one out in the ninth but walked a left-handed batter, Shin-Soo Choo. He was fortunate to get out of the inning without a run scoring because a baserunning blunder allowed Detroit to pull off a 3-5-2 double play.

The third lefty, rookie Drew Smyly, is targeted for long relief since he's been a starter in his two pro seasons. He had made only one appearance out a bullpen prior to a relief outing last week. Trust isn't a factor in Smyly's case, where the issue is more one of adjusting to the quick warmups that bullpen duty demands.

Coke has had problems burying his slider recently, leaving it up high enough for hitters to jump on. His fastball location could be better, too.

Downs doesn't have enough late-game experience to be reliable in those situations.

"Our left-handers have struggled lately getting left-handed hitters out," Leyland said. "We've got to get that straightened out."

Leyland does have alternatives. His late-game right-handed pitchers are for the most part effective whether hitters bat left- or right-handed.

However, he can't start using them in the fifth and sixth innings. That would create a problem late in games.

Unfortunately for Leyland, at this time of year, there isn't a whole that can be done in terms of bringing in new lefty relievers.

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