Brad Ausmus keeping bullpen plans for Game 3 to himself

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News




Detroit – Tigers manager Brad Ausmus continues to be coy about how he plans to use the back end of his bullpen in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

After the bullpen collapsed in the eighth innings of Game 1 and Game 2 in Baltimore, Ausmus said, "If we have a lead in the eighth inning on Sunday, we're going to have to find somebody."

He was no more forthcoming on Saturday. Asked if he still had confidence to use the same relievers in the same roles – meaning Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria in the eighth inning – he said, "Wait and see what happens in the game Sunday. I invite you to come down and watch it."

There isn't a surplus of options. Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez aren't walking through that bullpen door. If Ausmus needs to go to his bullpen before the ninth inning Sunday, he will choose from the same cast of relievers: Anibal Sanchez – who will be available after throwing 30 pitches Friday – Al Alburquerque and Kyle Lobstein, who have yet to pitch in the series, Phil Coke, Chamberlain and Soria.

He could also, presumably, use closer Joe Nathan for more than one inning, though he hasn't done that all season.

"I still have a ton of confidence in the guys that are coming in after me," said David Price, who will start Game 3. "I continue to see those guys working. They are not down. They've had some bad luck. They've made some good pitches but good hitters hit good pitches. When that happens you just tip your cap to them and get back to work."

Chamberlain has been the chief arsonist in the dumpster fire that was the Tigers' bullpen in Baltimore. He retired one batter in two outings, allowing three hits and five runs (four earned). His ERA has made national news – 108.00.

He doesn't know if he'll get a chance for redemption in Game 3, but he won't have any trepidation about taking the ball.

"Oh, I want the ball, no matter what, if I've thrown 10 good ones or 10 bad ones," he said. "That's the name of the game. It's obviously one of those things where you go through it. Everybody in this game has gone through that at some point. Matter of fact, I can think of two games last season where Mo (Mariano Rivera) blew two saves against the Tigers.

"So there's always a point that comes in your career where you're going to go through this stuff. But if you get knocked down seven (times), make sure you get up eight."

Chamberlain is certainly aware of the criticism he and the rest of the Tigers bullpen has received after the first two games. After giving up eight hits and 11 runs in just 1.2 innings of work – you know criticism is coming.

"I could really give two (expletives) about that, to be honest with you," he said. "Because at the end of the day, it's a critique, but we've got to play every day, and we know how good we are down there. That's it.

"Obviously, through the ups and the downs, we've done our jobs most of the time. We know how good we are. A critique is a critique, but you get out there 60-feet, 6-inches, and tell me how easy it is."

As for the criticism coming on a national scale, with the bullpen taking a beating from multiple networks – ESPN, TBS, MLB and FOX1 – Chamberlain said it comes with the territory.

"This isn't my first rodeo," he said. "I've been through this before, on a national stage a lot of times. It's not any different for me than it would be June 16, against whoever it may be. It's the same.

"Just so happens it's on TV. But a lot of games are on TV. It doesn't change anything, obviously. It's just the situation of it being in the playoffs, and being magnified."

Chamberlain would love to be able to pinpoint exactly what's gone wrong for him in his last two outings. He would love to blame it on a mechanical flaw or fatigue or some other malady.

But that isn't the case.

"I feel great," he said Saturday. "There's nothing. I feel physically better than I have ever. I don't know what to tell you."

Just good hitters hitting good pitches?

"Yeah, that's the name of the game," he said. "They're the best in the world for a reason."

Chamberlain agreed with Price on this point, too: Nobody is hanging their head or throwing in the towel.

"This is a game we've done for a living, and we've done our whole life," he said. "We know what we have in store. We know what we can do and we know what we're capable of.

"It's another day. You'd never know we were down 0-2, just by everybody's attitude. That's just the way the team is, and the way we've been all year."

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky