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Tigers can't afford patience now with struggling starters

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Shane Greene pitches Tuesday against the Mariners. He gave up six hits and five earned runs in 4.2 innings.

Detroit – The Tigers are clearly in play-in mode. They started play Thursday three games out of the second wild-card spot; the margin for error is minuscule and every game is crucial.

The sense of urgency is manifested in the way Brad Ausmus manages these games – much more aggressively – and in his patience, or lack of, with players who aren't getting results.

With that as the backdrop, then, Shane Greene is probably making another D-Day start Sunday in Boston. If his struggles continue, he could be removed from the rotation.

"Yeah, I mean, we need our pitchers to perform," Ausmus said when asked if Greene's spot in the rotation was on a start-by-start basis. "If one isn't performing in a fashion that will help us win and we have to make a change, we'll make it."

The problem with removing Greene from the rotation, Ausmus said, is who do you replace him with?

"That's what you have to weigh," he said.

The Tigers have had internal discussions about moving Alex Wilson into the rotation, but there are no immediate plans to do so.

"I know when someone has success, people want to move him," Ausmus said. "But maybe part of the reason he's having success is because he's being used properly."

Both Greene and Alfredo Simon have allowed four or more runs in six straight starts, and the trickle-down effect is a worn-down bullpen. The bullpen has had to pitch 39.2 innings over the last nine starts involving the Nos. 4 and 5 starters -- Greene, Kyle Ryan and Simon.

"If it happens on an every four-day basis over the course of three or four starts it certainly stresses the bullpen," Ausmus said. "Mentally they can handle it, but physically you are spreading them kind of thin."

The All-Star break was somewhat of a bailout for the bullpen, but again, Ausmus isn't in a position where he can worry about over-working anybody.

"I will say this, because we need to win on a daily basis, they may be asked to pitch in situations in terms of usage where in April they may not have had to."

It's all hands on deck from here out.

"The hope is you get two or three of the five starters to go deep in games enough so the bullpen can recover," Ausmus said. "The truth is, we need the starters to go deeper. That would be the best thing."

Twitter @cmccosky