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St. Petersburg, Fla. — This is not the Kyle Ryan a Tigers team had come to view as reliable. As fairly close to bulletproof, at least when compared with other areas of anxiety within manager Brad Ausmus’ bullpen.

Ryan had a 3.07 ERA in 56 games last season for the Tigers. His WHIP was a sturdy 1.13 and he had 10 unintentional walks in 55 innings.

This season?

There hasn’t been the same prowess, particularly in throwing strikes.

Ryan’s ERA was 8.31 heading into Wednesday evening’s game against the Rays at Tropicana Field. He had walked five batters in 41/3 innings. He had been rapped for eight hits.

“I have no idea,” Ryan said Wednesday, suggesting that media probably had a more accurate read on his issues than he could offer. “It’s the same comfort level. Nothing has changed.

“That’s the life of the bullpen pitcher.”

Ausmus believes Ryan’s challenge is fairly simple. And concisely summarized.

“Kyle’s got to get ahead of hitters,” Ausmus said.

“He’s got to be attacking the strike zone and not be so worried about the corners, and letting the movement (on his pitches) take over.”

Ryan needs a quick recovery. Otherwise, it’s likely another left-handed reliever, Blaine Hardy, will be returning from Toledo as a potential replacement if it’s viewed Ryan needs realignment at Triple A.

Upton ‘sore,’ out

As he implied would be the case following Tuesday’s game, Ausmus scratched Justin Upton from Wednesday’s lineup after Upton’s “right forearm contusion” was still throbbing following a Tuesday collision with Rays shortstop Tim Beckham.

“Not bad,” the Tigers manager said of Upton’s Wednesday medical report. “But a little sore.”

Ausmus suspects Upton will miss Thursday’s series finale against the Rays. A better guess on his left fielder’s return, he said, would be Friday against the Twins at Minneapolis.

Upton hurt his arm during a slide into second base in the seventh inning at which time he was plunked by Beckham’s arm as Beckham threw in a bid to double up Tyler Collins at first base.

Homer habit

The Tigers arrived Wednesday at Tropicana Field with some potential history on the line.

They had hit at least one home run in their first 13 games of 2017. The Indians have the record with a 14-game streak at the start of 2002.

Ausmus made clear Wednesday he considers the home-run string to be about as important as learning if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Feb. 2.

“The only thing I care about,” Ausmus said when asked about the Tigers’ flirtation with some power-hitting history, “is wins and losses.”

lynn.henning@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/lynn_henning

Tigers at Rays

First pitch: 1:10 Thursday, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Scouting report

LHP Daniel Norris (1-0, 2.19), Tigers: One of the more talented young left-handers in baseball, Norris gets a touch better every appearance. He has been incredibly good on the road (7-0, 2.77) and would appreciate keeping the string going in the Rays series finale.

RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-0, 3.72), Rays: He’s primarily a reliever for the Rays but is getting the start today. He can be irritating to hitters, thanks to a sinker-cutter repertoire that isn’t overpowering but gets the job done.

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