CINCINNATI -- The Tigers bullpen entered Saturday with the highest loss total in the American League, the second-highest ERA and the second-highest OPS allowed. And yet, it could always be worse.
That's what manager Jim Leyland is worried about. And that's why the way he's had to use his relievers over the past several days disturbs him.
"This is a long season," Leyland said, "and we will have a bunch of guys on the disabled list [if we're not careful]. And we don't have guys to replace them."
Only the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles have had more pitches thrown by relievers this season among AL clubs, despite an innings total that ranks among the middle of the pack. He has two relievers among the AL's top 20 in appearances so far in Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit, both of whom have Leyland worried.
He didn't want to use Coke on Friday night but had to, and Coke ended up throwing parts of three different innings.
"Coke pitches every day, it seems," Leyland said. "We have to watch him."
He doesn't want to use Benoit on Saturday after he threw 42 pitches over back-to-back appearances Wednesday and Thursday, but he might have to. Benoit has entered in the seventh inning in three of his past seven appearances, earlier than the eighth-inning role Leyland prefers for him, and the need to do it is Leyland's biggest concern.
"I can assure you, we'd better be careful with Benoit, and [Jose] Valverde a little bit, or we'll be in big trouble," Leyland said. "So [other] guys have to step up."
A key figure in that could be Octavio Dotel, who has been sidelined for the better part of a week with elbow inflammation. Leyland wasn't sure on Saturday afternoon about Dotel's availability.