Jim Leyland decides on Joaquin Benoit as Tigers’ closer

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Phil Coke did most of the closing in the playoffs and the Tigers went into the season talking about a “closer-by-committee” situation, but now manager Jim Leyland has settled on Joaquin Benoit as the primary ninth-inning reliever.

“On a lot of the days, if it’s doable, I think Benoit is the most experienced and versatile enough against righties and lefties to pitch the ninth,” Leyland told Jason Beck of MLB.com.

The part about “righties and lefties” may be a nod to Coke’s struggles versus right-handed hitters, which have made it tough to trust him to close things out. However, because the Tigers won’t use Benoit on three consecutive days Leyland may still have to turn to Coke once in a while.

And of course whenever they decide Jose Valverde is “ready” to rejoin the team he’ll presumably get a chance to reclaim his old role.

No, the Astros aren’t being targeted for HBPs in spring training

Alex Bregman
Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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On Wednesday, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman was hit by Cardinals pitcher Ramon Santos. It marked the seventh time an Astros batter had been hit in spring training exhibition games thus far, the highest total among all teams. As expected, teams are exacting revenge for the Astros’ cheating ways!

Well, not quite. The pitch Santos hit Bregman with was a 3-2 breaking ball that got away. Usually, if a pitcher is going to hit a batter as an act of revenge, he’ll attempt to do it with a first-pitch fastball.

José Altuve was also hit by a pitch against the Tigers on Sunday. The pitch, which looks to be the off-speed variety, appeared to graze his uniform as opposed to hitting him flush, so it was likely unintentional on the part of pitcher Nick Ramirez.

Other Astros to have been hit in spring training thus far: Alex De Goti, Aledmys Díaz, Osvaldo Duarte, Dustin Garneau, and Jake Meyers. Not exactly a who’s-who list of Code Breaker operatives.

Will some pitchers intentionally throw at the Astros this year? Almost certainly, despite commissioner Rob Manfred’s warning. Have they been doing it from the moment exhibition games began earlier this month? Certainly not.