Improving vs. lefties is Ryan’s mandate in Toledo

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — There was the two-run home run by the Texas Rangers’ Mitch Moreland on May 7. And the three-run triple by Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier on May 20. And then on Thursday, the back-breaking three-run triple by the New York Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury.

If there was a three-strike reason Tigers left-handed reliever Kyle Ryan was sent back to Toledo — that was it. All three of those hits came off Ryan by left-handed hitters.

Ryan’s ineffectiveness against lefties is profound and baffling. They were hitting .364 against him with five extra base hits and a 1.025 OPS. A left-handed pitcher like Ryan with a funky delivery and an assortment of pitches he can make dance around the plate should not struggle so mightily against left-handed hitters.

Manager Brad Ausmus said Ryan was sent down with a mandate to get that fixed.

“He doesn’t need another pitch,” Ausmus said. “He just needs to refine his breaking balls and I think he can use his two-seamer more, pitching it in on lefties. That’s exactly what we talked about.”

Ryan was replaced by another lefty — Blaine Hardy. Hardy, who allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings before being sent down earlier in May, has mostly dominated left-handed hitters in his three big-league seasons (.220 average, .591 OPS).

Nobody was hitting him much in 10 appearances at Triple-A Toledo — nine innings, one run, seven strikeouts.

Around the horn

Nick Castellanos got Friday night off. He’s been fighting a 4-for-23 slump. Perhaps if he had his druthers, he’d prefer Saturday off — against White Sox ace Chris Sale. He is 1-for-16 with 10 strikeouts against him.

… Mike Aviles, who had two hits Thursday, got the start at third. “I’ve been wanting to give Nick a day for a while,” Ausmus said. “But Mike swung the bat well, so I wanted to get him another game.”

... With Castellanos out, Ausmus moved J.D. Martinez back to the No. 5 spot in the batting order. Ian Kinsler batted leadoff with Cameron Maybin second.

… The MRI results came back on right-handed pitcher Warwick Saupold. He will be out two to four weeks with a mild groin strain.

… Ausmus said a decision would be made regarding right-hander Shane Greene, possibly as early as Saturday. Greene has completed his rehab assignment. The Tigers are trying to determine his role — back to the starting rotation or late-inning reliever.

… The Tigers continue to carry an extra pitcher on the 25-man roster. Ausmus hinted that might change soon. It is possible the club would bring back either Anthony Gose or Tyler Collins. Cameron Maybin presently is the only true center fielder on the roster.

Twitter: @cmccosky