Despite struggles, Alburquerque feeling fine

Tigers reliever gives up four runs on two homers against Tribe

Despite struggles, Alburquerque feeling fine

DETROIT -- The velocity has been down for Al Alburquerque, the pitches have been up and too many are going out. It's a tough combination for Detroit's resident strikeout reliever at a time when the Tigers' injury-depleted bullpen needs him badly.

At least he has his health, from what he's saying.

"Everything's fine," he said of his arm Friday, reiterating what he said a couple days earlier.

At this point, the Tigers take him at his word. Asked if there are any physical concerns about him, manager Brad Ausmus said the same.

"He says he's fine," Brad Ausmus said.

Once Friday's 13-1 loss to Cleveland grew lopsided, Ausmus used the later innings to stretch out Alburquerque, hoping a longer outing would let him work on his delivery. His velocity ticked upward, but his struggles remained, and his frustration grew.

"Keep working, man. I'm gonna fight," Alburquerque said. "Try to make my pitch. I'm not making my pitch."

Alburqurquerque's fastball had averaged 90.8 mph this season before Friday, according to fangraphs.com, after averaging 93-95 mph -- both four- and two-seamer -- in his previous four seasons. His first pitch Friday was a 91 mph fastball that David Murphy hit to the wall in right-center field.

Alburquerque's fastball sat at 91-92 mph for the eighth inning, around the same speed he threw Wednesday, when he gave up a Mark Teixeira three-run homer. On Friday, he gave up a Lonnie Chisenhall home run off the slider, a good pitch in an ill-advised location.

"When I want to throw for a strikeout, it stays up," Alburquerque said. "When I throw for a strike, it does down."

Alburquerque came back out for the ninth inning throwing closer to normal, but without command. He threw 93-94 mph on a four-pitch walk to Carlos Santana, then threw a 93-mph fastball that Brandon Moss hit out for his second home run of the game.

"He's a little bit out of sorts," Ausmus said. "We were hoping that giving him two innings today might sort some of it out. It was a little bit better, but it's still not the Albie of old."

Alburquerque was hoping the same thing. The tick upward in velocity was a minor consolation.

"I think I let it stretch out for a couple innings," he said. "It's hard. Sometimes everything you throw is hit. Keep working, see what happens."

The outing raised the damage totals on Alburquerque to eight runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings, with six walks and five strikeouts. He has given up more runs this April (three) than in his other three Aprils combined (two), and tied his career high for home runs in any month. He gave up three each in July 2013 and '14.

"I need to throw strikes and make my pitch," Alburquerque said. "It's a long season, just three weeks in. That's a good thing. I know I can do better."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.