Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/2/14
If you were to ask the common Detroit Tigers fan to name 3 active members of the Detroit Tigers bullpen, do you think they could do it? I don’t. They’d probably say Phil Coke, maybe Joaquin Benoit, and if they’re really locked in, perhaps Drew Smyly. Thank goodness for Drew Smyly What a difference a few months can make. The Tigers broke camp with what was supposed to be a veteran staff of relievers with some young arms that they were hoping would play up to the level of competition. The Tigers left Lakeland, Florida with this bunch: Joaquin Benoit Phil Coke Octavio Dotel Al Alburquerque Brayan Villarreal Darin Downs Drew Smyly If you look at it now it’s not all that different as only Dotel and Villarreal aren’t on the roster at the moment. However, the Tigers went through the Jose Valverde saga. Alburquerque has been sent down and called back up already. Currently filling the spots of Dotel and Villarreal are Evan Reed and Luke Putknonen. No source of contention has kept Tigers fans more engaged and enraged than the bullpen issues of 2013. Can this new version of the 7-man pen get the job done? Let’s put it this way: if it wasn’t for Benoit and Smyly the Tigers might just be a sub .500 team. Instead they are 10 games over .500 and in 1st place. Benoit and Smyly have literally carried this bullpen. Benoit, the latest in a growing line of anointed closers, is putting up an All-Star caliber season. He has a 2.01 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and a 37:9 K to walk ratio in 31.1 innings. He has logged 4 saves with presumably many more to come. Smyly has been a sensation. For a guy who probably deserves to be in a starting rotation somewhere, he has taken his relief role and owned it. His 1.75 ERA and 0.99 WHIP are off the charts. Throw in a 46:12 K to walk ratio and the fact that he’s only allowed 1 home run and he is easily one of the Tigers’ most valuable players so far in 2013. He has given up just 1 run in his last 10 appearances covering 17.1 innings of work. As for the rest of the crew, it’s not so simple. Reed has been with the Tigers for over 5 weeks and has pitched in 5 games. I mean, what’s the point? Leyland doesn’t really know what he has here and seems uneasy about finding out. Downs started the season brilliantly but has slumped lately, giving up runs in 7 of his last 9 appearances. He’s good enough to stick around but not solid enough to be trusted in crucial moments. The same goes for Putkonen. He has been really good, but Leyland hesitates to use him in critical spots. His 2.19 ERA suggests that he might be asked to graduate to a true major leaguer, and soon. Alburquerque is back despite his command issues persisting in AAA.  He walked 13 batters in 14.1 innings during his ‘you better go down there and fix it’ stint. The Tigers suggest that he was throwing the ball better of late. The numbers do not back that up. The truth is Detroit couldn’t stomach Valverde for another day so they called on Senor Slider to see if he could recapture his magic of the past 2 years. If he still can’t throw strikes it will be a failed experiment. And then there’s Phil Coke and his 6.14 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Somehow Leyland still trusts this guy, even running him out against a band of Red Sox right-handed hitters that showed him no mercy early in the Boston series. He has done better against righties this year but clearly not good enough. Thankfully for Jim Leyland, the Tigers have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, which naturally nullifies the need for a deep bullpen. But the time to rely on the pen arise at some point and the Tigers will have to be able to call upon someone to help out. Bruce Rondon Sadly, Jose Valverde will just never go away. He will most likely clear waivers and report to AAA Toledo in yet another attempt to ‘get straightened out’. Imagine the public fallout when they call him back up. Ugly… Oddly enough, the answer to all of this bullpen drama might be the guy who started it in the first place – Bruce Rondon. The big righty’s inability to look comfortable in spring and in a brief call-up early in the year set the Valverde domino in motion. Villarreal and Alburquerque’s utter lack of command only intensified matters. Rondon’s AAA numbers read like this: 1-1 record, 14 saves, 1.57 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and a 38:13 K to walk ratio in 28.2 innings. He has walked 2 hitters in his last 8 appearances. The man literally has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues yet Detroit was so wounded by his spring training performances that he remains in Toledo, for now. A strike-throwing, confidence-exuding Rondon could ignite the Tigers’ bullpen in a way that no other pitcher in the system may have the ability to do. The recent selection of Alburquerque over Rondon is a bit perplexing, especially given their respective minor league game logs. Slap a name other than “Rondon” next to his stat line and he’d already be in Detroit. If the guy isn’t ready now, will he ever be? Let’s get this party started. To receive an email each time a new Tigers article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form [Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe]
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bears to bench Jay Cutler, start Jimmy Clausen

Wes Welker once pulled funny UGG prank on Tom Brady

Wil Myers heads to Padres in 11-player, 3-team trade

Bo Pelini calls Nebraska AD a ‘c–t’ and ‘p-ssy’

49ers release Ray McDonald

Take your pick: Colin Kaepernick or Derek Carr

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Reports: Michigan makes huge offer to Harbaugh

Heat lose a key player with McRoberts out for rest of season

Belichick: Ryan is 'buttering me up' with Hall of Fame praise

Marshall: Bears need to gel and do some kumbaya

Red Sox appear content with rotation despite lack of true ace

Iguodala gets technical for mocking Conley travel

Report: Celtics in serious trade talks involving Rondo

WATCH: Brandon Jennings makes mind-boggling play

WATCH: Drake intros Raptors on 'Drake Night'

Brian Billick owns Browns fan over Johnny Manziel criticism

WATCH: Did Flyers' Giroux wipe boogers on linesman’s back?

Royals sign Edinson Volquez to 2-year deal

12 candidates to replace Paul Chryst at Pitt

Brad Halsey claimed he was on cocaine for Bonds record HR

Wade Miley confident in health, diet after trade from D-Backs

When bowl results mean more for one school than another

Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson lead in 2014 athlete Google searches

Max Scherzer next domino to fall in free agent market

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Brian Billick owns Browns fan

C's in serious trade talks about Rondo

Pelini has profane words for Nebraska AD

When bowl results mean more for one school than another

Four can't-miss match-ups in NFL's Week 16

RG3 quits social media for season

Each NFL division’s MVP

Five NFLers who must step up in Week 16

Most impressive college hoops teams

Five reasons why FSU is going to win the CFB Playoff

Boxer admits to dive in Rourke bout

FCC heard about Brady's swearing?

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.