CLEVELAND -- It isn't the eighth or ninth innings that have manager Jim Leyland quaking in his cleats.
For him the sixth frame is the most tenuous.
"The sixth inning is a tough inning to manage," Leyland said. "The starter doesn't want to come out. It's a tough call sometimes. I always look at it as, 'Am I leaving someone in who's better than what I'm bringing in, or am I taking out someone that's not as good as what I'm bringing in at that juncture?'"
While Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde have held down the fort in the late innings, Brayan Villarreal has stepped up in the middle-relief role this season. In 27 games (31 1/3 innings) the right-hander has compiled a 1.44 ERA and 42 strikeouts. That has eased the burden on Leyland's shoulders when he must make the difficult call on when to pull his starter.
"You usually have a couple of seventh-inning guys to fool around with, and then you have your setup guy," Leyland said, "but the sixth inning is a really fragile inning because you're not to your late-inning bullpen yet and you're beyond your long men."