Ausmus: K-Rod needs to be third option in 7th, 8th

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez

Detroit — You see Francisco Rodriguez come into the game in the eighth inning after the Tigers had taken a 3-2 lead Thursday night and immediately you wonder, “Why not Shane Greene? Why not Alex Wilson?”

Your wonder turns to frustration, even anger, when Rodriguez gives up a game-tying home run to Steven Souza, Jr. Maybe you were among the paying customers who booed and jeered Rodriguez, and manager Brad Ausmus, last night.

If only it was as simple as throwing Greene and Alex Wilson in the seventh and eighth innings every night when the Tigers have a late lead.

“We are in a situation where we have a couple of good guys setting up — Shane Greene and Alex Wilson — who if I keep using them the way I have been, their arms are going to fall off,” Ausmus said after the game. “We need another guy to pitch down there.

“Frankie did a good job the other night (Tuesday) in a high-leverage situation. Tonight wasn’t as great. But we still need another guy to do that and he’s our best option.”

There are only 25 players on a big-league roster and typically only seven relief pitchers. There are a minimum of 1,458 innings to cover over six months in a 162-game schedule. All seven relief pitchers are in the big leagues for a reason and they all have a role they need to perform for the team to succeed, and for the rest of the staff to stay healthy and productive.

“For us to win, we need a third guy to pitch in the seventh and eighth inning, and maybe even in the sixth at times,” Ausmus said. “You can’t consistently throw the same two guys night after night or they will be done and any hope of making the playoffs will disappear in the last month and a half.

“We need Frankie to pitch well. He’s got the experience, obviously. He wasn’t perfect (Thursday) but we still need him.”

Greene (32 games) and Wilson (30) have pitched in nearly half the games this season. They are on pace to appear in close to 80 games. That doesn’t include the times they warm up and don’t come into a game — work the Tigers keep a close eye on.

“We have to have another guy,” Ausmus repeated. “We can’t keep going to the same two guys. Two things worry me about doing that with Wilson and Greene. One, like I said, their arms are going to fall off by the end of August.

“Two, this is their livelihood. I don’t want to wear those guys out and risk their careers because I overused them and they can’t keep pitching. It’s a two-fold reason why we need that third guy.”

Rodriguez is the game’s fourth, all-time saves leader. He had shown signs of regaining his form before he hung a change-up to Souza Thursday. It’s not like the Tigers are trying to force a square peg into a round hole by using Rodriguez in the seventh and eighth innings.

And it’s not like Bruce Rondon, Arcenio Leon, Blaine Hardy or Kyle Ryan locked that role down earlier this season.

“K-Rod will be fine,” Ausmus said. “It’s never fun when the fans boo you like that. But K-Rod is a guy who will look in the mirror and blame himself. He will say, ‘If I pitch better, they won’t boo me. They will cheer for me.’

“This won’t affect him.”

Good days, bad days

You wouldn’t know it by the way he plays, but J.D. Martinez is still taking treatment and dealing with occasional soreness in his right foot.

“It’s getting better every day,” he said. “There are some days that it’s a little sore and days when it’s not. For the most part, I am happy with how it’s feeling. But it’s like the doctor said, if you want it to completely heal, you have to get off of it.

“We don’t have that luxury in baseball.”

Martinez, who had a single and double Thursday night, slid hard into second base in the third inning and appeared to be in some pain. Asked if he tweaked the foot, Martinez raised his leg to show a bandage on his knee, covering some torn skin from the slide.

“I left some blood on the field,” he said.

With Victor Martinez going on the DL (irregular heartbeat), Ausmus said J.D. Martinez would get some starts at designated hitter to relieve some of the stress on his foot. He missed the first seven weeks of the season with a sprained Lisfranc ligament. 

Around the horn

There continues to be an offensive explosion in Major League Baseball. According to Elias, Thursday night was the fifth straight day when the average number of runs scored per game across the league was 10 or more. There hasn’t been a comparable league-wide streak since July of 2007.

Twitter @cmccosky

Twitter: @cmccosky