DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland does not want to take a right-handed approach to his bullpen against left-handed hitters. If his left-handed relievers continue to struggle against lefties, though, he might be forced to do it.
It wasn't a threat from Leyland, but an admission that he might have to get creative to get the job done.
"If our lefties don't get some guys out, I'm going to have to," Leyland said, "but I'd rather not do that. I mean, that's what our lefties are down there for."
It's more of an option now that Al Alburquerque has joined Brayan Villarreal in the bullpen. Both are strikeout artists -- Alburquerque for a nasty slider that proved almost unhittable last year and looks close to form after a month in the Minors; Villarreal for a 99-mph fastball that he has commanded better now than last year.
Both have proven stingy against batters on both sides of the plate. Left-handed batters hit just .176 with 32 strikeouts in 81 plate appearances against Alburquerque last year. Entering Tuesday, lefties are hitting just .196 (10-for-51) off Villarreal, albeit with 12 walks.
By contrast, Phil Coke, Darin Downs and Drew Smyly have all struggled to retire left-handed hitters in recent days. Downs, who has been stingy against lefties since coming up to Detroit two months ago, loaded the bases Monday to set up the Indians' go-ahead rally. Smyly walked two left-handed batters and retired a right-hander Friday against the White Sox. Coke's struggles to retire lefties allowed the go-ahead run to score in the eighth inning last Tuesday at Kansas City.
Opponents are batting .392 against Coke since the All-Star break.
"We have plenty of force in the bullpen, but one thing about it: Left-handed-specialist relievers are down there to get left-handed hitters out," Leyland said. "That's their role. You have a backup catcher. You have a left-handed reliever. If you didn't need them, you wouldn't have them to start the season."
Garcia likely to only see time against lefties
DETROIT -- Avisail Garcia held his own in his first two Major League starts over the weekend, going 3-for-7 with an RBI against the White Sox. That's not enough, though, to force his way into the everyday lineup.
Tuesday's game against the Indians marked Garcia's second straight day out of the lineup, and it's unlikely he'll get back in until the Tigers face Angels lefty C.J. Wilson on Saturday.
Simply put, the Tigers have too many left-handed-hitting outfielders, all of whom manager Jim Leyland has been juggling to try to keep somewhat fresh, to justify giving a shot to a 21-year-old right-handed hitter.
"With [Brennan] Boesch and [Andy] Dirks and [Quintin] Berry and all those guys, I can't play him against a right-handed pitcher right now. That's just the way I feel," Leyland said. "People get carried away. A guy has a couple games and [people say], 'Well, why not put him out there?' I just don't think you can do that right now.
"I mean, if Boesch and those guys don't do it, well, they don't do it, but I think they'll be fine. Those are our guys. You have to remember, [Dirks and Boesch] are the guys that broke with this club. They were the guys we were counting on at the beginning of the season. They're still here, so it's hard not to count on them now. If they don't do it, they don't do it. But if you're asking some kid that came out of Double-A to do it for you, I don't think that's necessarily [going to happen]."
Leyland sounded reluctant to use Garcia as a pinch-hitter.
"You're a genius if you put somebody like that up," Leyland said. "You're an idiot if he doesn't do something when you put him up there. I don't really know. I'd like to stay away from putting a kid like that in a real big situation, but I don't know that he wouldn't be successful."
Prince starts at DH with Young out vs. Masterson
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland has talked on and off for most of the summer about trying to get Prince Fielder a day at designated hitter. Leyland was already thinking about it before Fielder took hit-by-pitches in each of the last two games. He did it on Tuesday.
The decision, Leyland said, dated back to last week. He knew he was going to rest Delmon Young, who's 3-for-20 with five strikeouts in his career off Indians sinkerballer Justin Masterson, so he used the occasion to pitch Fielder about getting out from first base for a night.
"I've talked to Prince five times this year about getting him off his feet," Leyland said. "This was set up four days ago. This is not a shock to anybody. Prince knew he was DHing. He's ready for the DH spot tonight. ...
"This was set up last week that this would be the day. If Delmon wasn't going to play, that would be a good day for him to DH. He said, 'I'd like to DH that day.' And I said, 'You got it.' That was it. That's how that all came about."
In other words, if Young was going to sit regardless, Fielder opted for that game to DH, preferring not to cost somebody a spot.
The fact that Young sits in the midst of a 15-for-34 tear with five doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs, however, made it a source for debate on talk radio. Leyland didn't particularly care.
That said, he still seems to be fascinated by the lineup debate in general. When asked about the critiques, he went into detail about them.
"I don't mind the second-guessing, but I've never been in a place where they talked about the lineup so much -- who plays, who doesn't play," Leyland said. "What they need to do is, they need to email you guys their lineups, and then you guys can bring them in here to me, and I will be sure to write that down and put them on my big card and that's who I'll play.
"They don't know [anything] about the lineup. They have no idea who's nagging, who's hurting, who hits who, who doesn't hit who."