Benoit welcomes opportunity to close games
Reliever says he's ready if Tigers decide to give righty full-time job
KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers continue to scout teams for potential bullpen help before the Trade Deadline, including closer options, but they continue to be impressed with the way Joaquin Benoit has handled the job.
Benoit has opened some eyes with the way he has taken over the role, though he says he has never been told he's the full-time closer. On the flip side, however, he sought to clarify a report that he told the Tigers in Spring Training that he didn't want to close.
That tidbit was tucked in a report from CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler that the Tigers had scouts this weekend watching the Marlins, Brewers, Padres, Mariners and Astros.
Benoit said on Saturday that the Tigers never asked him if he wanted to close. The discussion, he said, centered on what his focus was in the spring. With the Tigers seemingly focused on giving Bruce Rondon every chance to win the job, Benoit said his point was that he wasn't thinking about winning the job.
"That was his show," Benoit said. "They got Rondon. They wanted him to be the closer. After that, they never said anything about me or anybody else. …
"That's the goal of everybody, to be in the position where everybody's going to recognize you. If you ask anybody in the bullpen if they want to be the closer for the team, most of the answers are going to be yes, that they want to be."
That includes Benoit.
"Yes," he said. "My position is that if you have a set role, I'm not going to jump in there and say, 'Because I can do that, I want to do it.' I mean, I know I can, but it's not that I'm going to jump in there and say, 'Take him out and I'm going to jump in.'"
In other words, Benoit wasn't going to upset the apple cart and demand to close. And he still isn't.
The only public remarks Benoit made about the closer's job in Spring Training was that he felt it was better for the team to have a set closer rather than a bullpen by committee. Whoever the set closer was going to be, he said, was the team's decision.
Benoit would like to have the closer's role, and he thinks he can do it. Other than some minor adjustments, he doesn't see much difference from his old role.
"What's different? It's probably good. It's probably bad," Benoit said. "On the road, I don't know how many times I'm going to pitch. I don't know how many times I'm going to warm up. Because in extra innings, I may have to be up in every inning.
"But [the pitching] is not different. If you can pitch in the eighth, I think you can pitch the ninth."
One change that has taken place is that Benoit no longer loosens up in the fifth or sixth inning, a ritual he had for the first half of the season. He wants to save his throws and his arm to be ready to pitch four days or more in a row if need be.
If Benoit can show that durability, it would answer a major question about whether he can handle the job full-time down the stretch. Manager Jim Leyland has been hesitant to use Benoit three games in a row, given his injury history that includes career-threatening shoulder surgery in 2009.
Avila owns up to error on tricky popup in KC
KANSAS CITY -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland, a former Minor League catcher, tried to characterize the degree of difficulty on the Alcides Escobar popup on Friday night that Alex Avila dropped in front of the Royals' dugout for an error.
"That was a tough one," Leyland said. "He had to go quite a ways for it. Normally if they go straight back, they're easier, because you can kind of wait until it gets to its peak and then kind of move in to it like an outfielder. With the angle he was on, that was a little more difficult to do."
Avila acknowledged some trickiness on it, noting the spin being the opposite of what an infielder or outfielder would see. Still, he said, that's a play he has to make.
"I had a bead on it, saw it all the way. Just in and out of my glove," Avila said. "I've caught hundreds of those."
The error kept Escobar and the sixth inning alive with the bases loaded and two outs, with Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez trying to hold a 1-0 deficit. Sanchez's strikeout a couple of pitches later ensured no damage came out of it.
Bonderman set for relief work with Mud Hens
KANSAS CITY -- Jeremy Bonderman will work out of the bullpen at Triple-A Toledo instead of starting, potentially a reflection of his best path back to Detroit.
Bonderman, who rejoined the organization Sunday on a Minor League contract, made his Mud Hens return on Friday night with a perfect eighth inning in relief. It went against earlier indications that Bonderman would take the open rotation spot of Derek Hankins, who left last week to sign a deal in Korea.
Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, however, confirmed Bonderman's current status.
"Right now, he will pitch out of the 'pen," Dombrowski told MLive.com.
Bonderman has been a starter for his entire Major League career, most of it with the Tigers. However, Detroit already has five solid starters, making Bonderman at best an injury fill-in with that role. The bullpen, by contrast, remains in flux.
Tigers lack for extra bases in opener with KC
KANSAS CITY -- When Alex Avila lined a double into the gap in left-center field to lead off the second inning on Saturday, he not only had the Tigers' first extra-base hit of the night. He had the first extra-base hit of the series, for either side.
Indeed, Friday night's 1-0 loss to the Royals featured all singles and walks. It was the ninth game without an extra-base hit for either side in the Majors this year, and just the second involving two American League teams, according to Bill Chuck.
It was the 10th time since 2000 that the Tigers neither tallied nor allowed an extra-base hit in a game. They had two such games last season, and three during their 119-loss season of 2003. The latter included an 18-single barrage between the Tigers and Orioles on May 1, 2003.