Tigers’ Hardy working to secure role in crowded bullpen

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Blaine Hardy has not given up an earned run in his last 5.2 innings.

New York — The Tigers have been carrying an extra reliever on the 25-man roster since Steven Moya was sent back to Toledo on May 27.

It’s not a perfect situation.

“If the starters go deep in games, it is hard to get everyone enough work,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “That can be a challenge, but it’s a good problem to have because it means your starters are going deep into games.”

It’s not a good problem for the relievers, who are trying to get enough work to maintain some level of sharpness. It also adds to the anxiety of those pitchers who may find themselves on the cusp — like Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan were last month (since sent to Toledo) and like Bobby Parnell and Blaine Hardy are now.

And former starters Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene now working out of the bullpen only increases the anxiety for both Parnell and Hardy.

Or so you’d think.

“I try not to worry about it,” said Hardy, who has not given up an earned run in his last 5.2 innings. “They’re going to do what they think is best for the team. If they don’t think I am part of that equation, then that’s how they’re going to go about it.”

Nobody has been yo-yoed more than Farmer this season. He’s been toggled between Detroit and Toledo five times already. But Hardy has rode the shuttle enough to be tired of it. After starting the season on the disabled list, he was called up on April 13, sent down May 12 and recalled a second time on June 3.

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“The guys we have in the bullpen now, there’s not too many options that they can send down,” Hardy said. “And I knew I was the odd man out. I hadn’t pitched in eight days (before being sent down). There was no reason for me to stay up here when I’m not pitching.

“Now that I’ve started to pitch much better, and more frequently, I feel a little more secure. At the same time, I can’t really be worrying about that.”

When Hardy was recalled on June 3, he essentially replaced Ryan as the second left-hander in the bullpen. Ryan was sent down after struggling mightily to get left-handed batters out, while lefties are 3-for-17 against Hardy — though two of those hits occurred this week.

In his last six outings, he faced 22 batters total and allowed three hits and one of three inherited runners to score.

“His curveball seems more consistent, but he hasn’t thrown it a ton,” Ausmus said. “It’s only been five innings.”

Ausmus was asked if he had the same level of trust in Hardy as he had last season, when Hardy was the primary left-hander in the bullpen.

“It’s close,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s exactly the same, but it’s close. The difference is we have another lefty (Justin Wilson).”

Clearly, there is another level of trust Hardy needs to achieve.

“You can only control what you can,” Hardy said. “I know I’m valuable and they know I’m valuable. It’s just a matter of being the right fit in the right place. Hopefully I am part of the equation for the rest of the year and I hope that extends all the way to the World Series.”

Twitter: @cmccosky

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