Tigers' middle relief a concern for Leyland

Tigers' middle relief a concern for Leyland

Tigers' middle relief a concern for Leyland

DETROIT -- The closer position has been a target for Tigers fans since last offseason, let alone since Jose Valverde's return. As manager Jim Leyland looks at his bullpen right now, however, he's more worried about the seventh inning than the ninth.

Simply put, Detroit doesn't have enough depth in its middle relief. It was a concern when Octavio Dotel went on the disabled list a month and a half ago, a concern when Al Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal went to Triple-A Toledo to work out command issues, and it remains a concern now.

"I have to get an extra guy going in the bullpen," Leyland said. "You can't end up with a three-man bullpen. But our starters have been so good it's hard to get those guys enough work."

Leyland tried to fill Saturday's seventh inning with young right-hander Luke Putkonen protecting a 6-2 lead. He ended up stretching Phil Coke for four outs after a Jhonny Peralta error and a Ryan Raburn homer made it a 6-4 game.

Fellow young righty Jose Ortega had similar ups and downs before he was optioned to Toledo to make room for Sunday spot starter Jose Alvarez.

"There's still that little one area there where we've got to get a little better at," Leyland said.

The Tigers were short on relievers Sunday, having to call up Jose Alvarez for a spot start. They returned to full strength after the game by optioning Alvarez to Triple-A Toledo and recalling right-hander Evan Reed.

Reed pitched in two games for the Tigers last month in his first big league action, allowing a run on four hits over four innings. His lone scoring damage was a Nelson Cruz home run on May 16. The 27-year-old pitched 11 innings with two earned runs allowed on six hits since rejoining the Mud Hens. He walked eight and struck out 10.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.