Opportunity could knock in the back end of Tigers’ bullpen

Detroit News

Detroit — Jason Foley and Alex Lange have held down the back end of the Tigers’ bullpen for much of the season.

But with Foley out after being placed on the bereavement list Wednesday and Lange going through a rough stretch with control issues, there could be an opportunity for others to step up in late-game and high-leverage situations.

Ideally, manager AJ Hinch would prefer his team to be comfortably ahead and to not worry about the closer role altogether. But, he knows that won’t always be the case.

“We’re going to look at the game from the beginning of the game all the way through and manage accordingly,” Hinch said Wednesday. “You can go into a game thinking who’s going to get the last three outs and lose somewhere between one and 24 outs if you’re not careful.

“So, I think, especially in times like this, they’re going to be times … (where) somebody is not available or they’ve gone a couple of days in a row. It will be an unfamiliar spot for somebody, either in the leverage role in the middle of the game, to the bridge to the end or the guy that’s actually getting the last three outs.”

The Tigers have seen recent examples of relievers not named Lange getting the job done at the end of games. In the past week, Tyler Holton and Beau Brieske recorded their first career saves by stepping in and slamming the door with a strikeout.

Both instances came after Lange struggled to find the strike zone, get the final out and put the winning run at the plate. Holton inherited a bases-loaded situation on Aug. 2 in Pittsburgh, while Brieske took over with runners at first and second against Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Neither showed any jitters. Holton struck out Ke’Bryan Hayes and Brieske fanned Isaac Paredes to preserve the wins.

In addition to Holton and Brieske, Jose Cisnero also has a save under his belt this season and could be a late-game option for the Tigers until Foley returns and while Lange works through his command problems.

“I think what we’ve learned, or hopefully what we’re learning, is that there’s a lot of different paths to get to the end of the game,” Hinch said. “Just because it’s uncomfortable for us doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable for the players. They can go get outs. … Somebody else will get an opportunity.”

Moving on up

Miguel Cabrera has passed some of the game’s greats as he continues to climb up the MLB’s all-time hit list.

So far this season, he has passed the likes of Ichiro Suzuki, Dave Winfield and Alex Rodriguez. On Tuesday night, Cabrera moved into the top 20 when he passed San Diego Padres icon Tony Gwynn and moved into a tie for 19th with Milwaukee Brewers legend Robin Yount, at 3,142 hits.

Next within striking distance are a pair of Hall of Famers: Paul Waner (3,152 hits) and George Brett (3,154). But according to Hinch, some of the names Cabrera has leapfrogged have been lost on some of the younger players in the clubhouse.

“They still don’t recognize them,” Hinch said. “I was personally crushed when some of our young guys didn’t know George Brett when he was on the field in Kansas City. I think there will be a moment where these guys figure it out. … But I still think it’s hard to keep into context for these guys.”

Like the fact that Cabrera has nearly been in the big leagues (21st season) and racking up hits for as long as youngsters like Riley Green, 22, and Spencer Torkelson, 23, have been alive.

“I think the coaches, we all kind of kind of look at each other like, ‘Down goes Tony Gwynn, down goes Robin Yount,’” Hinch said. “It is something we’re paying close attention to. I’m just trying to remind myself and others to really soak this up and enjoy it because when it’s over, we’re going to still talk about it but we’re not going to be in the middle of it.”

Around the horn

Matt Vierling made his fourth start — and eighth appearance this season — at third base. Despite the small sample size, Hinch has liked what he’s seen from Vierling.

“I love the initial read. He’s fearless, which is a good start,” Hinch said, noting Vierling was an infielder coming up through the minors before he was an outfielder. “Can read hops, has great feet and has made every throw so far.

“His actions and his fundamentals are pretty rock-solid.”

In 14 defensive chances, Vierling has recorded 11 assists, three putouts and no errors at third.

… The Tigers recalled right-hander Trey Wingenter from Toledo to fill Foley’s spot on the roster and outrighted left-handed pitcher Zach Logue to Triple-A after he cleared waivers.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins

Twins at Tigers

First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Thursday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1


RHP Kenta Maeda (3-6, 4.22), Twins: He’s been superb over the last month. In his past six starts, he’s allowed 22 hits, given up 10 earned runs and walked nine while striking out 46 in 33⅔ innings. Over that span, he’s limited hitters to a .185 batting average and posted a 2.67 ERA. His first win of the season came against the Tigers on June 23, when he scattered three hits and struck out eight in five innings.

RHP Reese Olson (1-5, 4.94), Tigers: The rookie has been knocked around in his past three starts. He’s been tagged for 13 earned runs, recorded twice as many hits (20) as strikeouts (10) and hasn’t made it past the sixth inning. He’ll look to turn things around against the Twins, who he stifled with a nine-strikeout outing on June 24.

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