Tigers looking for depth in bullpen setup roles

Ausmus doesn't want to overwork Greene, Justin Wilson in late-inning spots

Tigers looking for depth in bullpen setup roles

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus laid down the challenge as best as he could after Friday's 10-3 loss to the Royals, a game that was a scoreless duel in the sixth inning and a 1-0 game at the seventh-inning stretch.

"We can't keep going to [Shane] Greene and [Justin] Wilson all the time in one-run games," Ausmus said. "We need somebody else to step up. That's really the basic fact."

It's a short-term challenge with a long-term view, hoping to avoid the kind of second-half fatigue that befell Alex Wilson last season. And after Friday's game got away, it's a challenge that remains in need of an answer.

Ausmus stuck with Greene as the Royals built a seventh-inning threat. Though lefty Blaine Hardy was warming up, Ausmus left Greene in to face Eric Hosmer, because Greene has handled lefties since his move to the bullpen.

Hosmer hit an RBI single off Greene in the seventh.

Hosmer's RBI single

"As long as it was a one-run game, I was going to leave Greenie in there," Ausmus said. "He's done an excellent job against both righties and lefties since he went to the bullpen. As soon as they scored that second run, I wanted to keep his pitch count down and get him out."

The Royals then pounced on Mark Lowe for three hits, and they put up five runs on five hits against Hardy in the eighth.

"You can't keep going to the same guys in the seventh and eighth inning. There will just be nothing left by the time you get to August," Ausmus said.

That goes particularly for Wilson, whose recent elbow soreness has created concern for conserving his pitches. Ausmus said he's hoping to save Justin Wilson for situations where they have a lead to protect, as opposed to keeping a deficit small.

Essentially, Ausmus is looking for a third setup man to emerge alongside Justin Wilson -- who led the Tigers with 29 games pitched entering Saturday -- and Greene. It could be Lowe, who was signed for setup work before his struggles forced Ausmus to look to Greene. It could be Alex Wilson, who has had off-and-on bouts of effectiveness, including 8 2/3 scoreless innings since May 31.

"If your starter goes six, now you know you have two of the three [setup guys] for the seventh and eighth, as opposed to having to use the same two every single day," Ausmus said. "That gives the third guy a rest on a given day. Then the next day you can use him. But when you just have two guys, it becomes dicey.

"It could be anybody, but we have to get someone to show us that they can do it."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.