Tag: Brayan Villarreal

Jim Leyland

Tigers lose because Jim Leyland’s closer-by-committee really wasn’t


Jim Leyland said all of the right things this spring after Bruce Rondon failed to step up and win the Tigers’ closing gig. He didn’t seem the least bit disturbed to go with a closer-by-committee situation while waiting for things to shake out.

And then he went and seemingly abandoned the idea in the second game of the season.

Game 1 worked out perfectly for Leyland: the Tigers beat the Twins 4-2, with Joaquin Benoit getting four outs in the eighth and ninth and before stepping aside for Phil Coke with lefty Justin Morneau up. Morneau struck out and Ryan Doumit flied out to end it.

Game 2 didn’t. Leyland went with the same exact arrangement in a 2-1 game, even though this time in meant Benoit would face lefties Joe Mauer and Morneau in the eighth and Coke would get the righties in the ninth. Benoit did his job in the eighth, but he walked Trevor Plouffe to start the ninth before getting pulled. Coke came in and retired the lefty Chris Parmelee, only to give up hits to right-handers Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar and take a 3-2 loss.

In Coke’s defense, Escobar’s double to the warning track in center should have been caught. It appeared that Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks both thought the other would haul it in. Still, even if it had been caught, it would have been a game-tying sac fly and a blown save for Coke. And it was a well hit ball by a pretty terrible hitter.

But the whole idea here is that Leyland has a bunch of similarly talented relievers and needs to play matchups as a result. And he didn’t. Coke was successful in an expanded role in the playoffs last year, but right-handers torched him for a .396 average in the regular season. Lifetime, righties have hit .299 against him, compared to .232 for lefties. He is a matchup guy, not a closer, and the obvious call was to use him in the eighth tonight.

Leyland, though, trusts Coke. More than he does Benoit. Far more than he does Al Alburquerque, even though Alburquerque has a 1.57 ERA and a .143 average against in 57 1/3 innings as a major leaguer. If not Coke, one gets the feeling it would have been Octavio Dotel finishing this game, even though he’s the third or fourth best right-hander in the pen.

Of course, I’m probably overreacting here. It’s the second game of the season, and Leyland deserves a chance to feel things out. At the same time, given that it is early in the season, why not see what Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal can do in those pressure situations? The Tigers already know exactly what they have in Coke. And trying to make a closer out of him is like shoving a square peg into a round hole.

Brayan Villarreal’s family escaped an attempted kidnapping Friday night in Venezuela

brayan villarreal getty

Tom Gage of the Detroit News has gathered the few details that have been made publicly available:

The Tigers confirmed Sunday that the family of relief pitcher Brayan Villarreal was the target of an unsuccessful armed kidnapping on Friday night in Venezuela.

No members of Villarreal’s family were harmed, however, and the incident won’t require him to leave spring training.

Gage adds on his personal Twitter feed that gunfire was involved while noting again that “all ended well.”

Villarreal, a native of¬†Vargas, Venezuela, posted a superb 2.63 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 54 2/3 innings last season for the American League Central-champion Tigers. He is scheduled to make a relief appearance in Monday’s Grapefruit League game vs. the Braves, though it’d be understandable if that were pushed back.

It has been less than two years since Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos — who was born in Carabobo, Venezuela — got taken captive in his home country. Authorities found and freed him about 48 hours later.

Brayan Villarreal shut down from winter ball due to a sore elbow

Brayan Villarreal Getty

Jason Beck of MLB.com passes along word that Tigers reliever Brayan Villarreal has been shut down from the Venezuelan Winter League due to a sore elbow.

Villareal tossed three scoreless innings over three appearances with Caribes de Anzoategui before first complaining about his elbow in mid-December. Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reported that he was immediately brought back to the United States for tests, which revealed inflammation but no structural damage. That report has since been confirmed by the Tigers.

Villareal was originally expected to resume throwing yesterday, which would have left open the possibility of him pitching during the playoffs, but the Tigers have decided to play things safe and have him focus on being ready for spring training. The 25-year-old right-hander also dealt with some inflammation in his elbow back in August, so it’s tough to blame them.

Villareal posted a 2.63 ERA and 66/28 K/BB ratio over 54 2/3 innings last season. Armed with a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90s, he projects to pitch in middle relief again in 2013, but the opportunity could be there for him to earn a more prominent late-inning role.