Tigers' Ausmus seeking another reliable setup man

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Alex Wilson could be a candidate to win a setup role in the bullpen.

Kansas City, Mo. — It’s not exactly open auditions, but manager Brad Ausmus has made it clear there's an opportunity at the back end of the bullpen and he’s daring somebody to step up and win the job.

“We can’t keep going to the same two guys night after night,” he said, referring to right-hander Shane Greene and lefty Justin Wilson. “If you go to those guys every time you are down a run, tied or up by one, two or three runs, that’s a lot of games. 

“You can’t keep going to the same two guys in the seventh and eighth innings. There will be nothing left by the time you get to August.”

Mark Lowe was supposed to be the third setup man, but he has faltered to the point Ausmus isn’t sure he can trust him in high-leverage situations.

“He’s really struggling,” Ausmus said. “We have to look for spots where he can pitch that are less stressful until he figures it out.”

Left-hander Blaine Hardy has struggled lately, as well. He was tagged for five runs in the eighth inning Friday. 

Alex Wilson, who hasn’t allowed a run in his last five outings, is probably the leading candidate to join Justin Wilson and Greene. 

“It can be anybody, but we’ve got to get somebody to show us they can do it,” Ausmus said. 

Ausmus said using Anibal Sanchez as a setup man is tricky.

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“The problem with Sanchey is, he’s our long protection,” he said. “If we’re in a close game and we use Sanchey in the seventh, and all of a sudden it’s a tie game, then you don’t have another guy who can protect you at the end.”

The absence of a third setup man burned the Tigers late in the game Friday night. In a 1-0 game, Ausmus had to go to Greene earlier than usual — to get the final out in the sixth. He was hoping he could get through the seventh and then use Justin Wilson in the eighth.

Greene, who finished the sixth inning with a strikeout, gave up a single and a walk with one out in the seventh. With left-handed hitting Eric Hosmer up, Ausmus had Hardy ready in the bullpen. But he stuck with Greene.

“Don’t forget that Greene has done fine against lefties since going to the bullpen,” Ausmus said. “I love it when I get questioned about why I didn’t bring a lefty in to face a lefty. Well, guess what, Greene’s done pretty darn good against lefties.

“So why am I going to take a guy who’s been good as a setup guy in the seventh against righties and lefties and bring a lefty in?”

Had the Tigers been protecting a lead in that situation, Ausmus said he would have considered using Justin Wilson, but he wasn’t committed to it.

“I am not sure I would’ve done it,” he said. “First of all, he’s been dealing with elbow soreness. He was available, but if I’m going to use him, I’m going to use him in a spot I think he can help us secure a win.”

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If he uses Justin Wilson to get the final two outs of the seventh, he would still have him pitch the eighth. In that scenario, he would’ve burned both Greene and Wilson and left himself short staffed for Saturday. 

Alex Wilson had pitched three of the four previous days and wasn’t available. So, you see what Ausmus is begging for here. Somebody has to step up and be a reliable third setup man.

“If the starter goes six innings, now you know you have two of three guys you can use in the seventh and eighth,” he said. “As opposed to using the same two guys every single day. You can use two of the three and the third guy can rest and be ready the next day.”

Around the horn

Tigers pitching prospect Joe Jimenez had before Saturday pitched in 24 games between Single A Lakeland and Double A Erie and hadn’t allowed a run in 24⅓ innings. He allowed just nine hits with 41 strikeouts and six walks. He’s saved 13 games. Asked if he’d be surprised if Jimenez pitched for the Tigers at some point this season, Ausmus said, “I guess I would be surprised if he got up here this year, but it wouldn’t be unheard of.”

… Ausmus said right-hander Buck Farmer, who was sent down to Toledo Friday, will be used as a starter for the Mud Hens.

Twitter: @cmccosky