While his teammates headed for Texas Wednesday night, Al Alburquerque made a much shorter trip.
Although it wasn’t announced until Thursday morning, the Tigers sent Alburquerque to Toledo after he struggled once again to throw strikes in Wednesday’s 7-5 loss to Houston.
Jim Leyland, who prides himself on never being negative to the media about one of his players, couldn’t help himself after Alburquerque threw a wild pitch, struck out a batter on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt and then walked the leadoff hitter in the ninth. That runner turned out to be the winning run in the game.
“It’s depressing,” Leyland said after the game. “If I had seen any signs that he was going to throw the ball over the plate, I would have left him in. He was all was all over the place.
“I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if he needs more work or what is going on, but he can’t help us if he can’t throw a strike.”
On a good day, Alburquerque’s slider is one of the nastiest pitches in baseball, but he struggles against teams that are willing to make him throw one in the strike zone.
This season, he’s averaging an incredible 16.3 strikeouts per nine innings, but no pitcher can survive a walk rate on 8.2 per nine innings. Also, despite being a relief pitcher, he leads the league with six wild pitches.
So he’ll get a chance to work out his mechanics in Toledo, while Evan Reed will be the latest member of the unsettled Tigers bullpen.
The Tigers claimed Reed off waivers from Miami in spring training, and he has pitched reasonably well for Toledo. At 27, he’s not much of a prospect, and in three seasons in Triple-A, he has a 5.50 ERA with a lot of strikeouts, but even more hits allowed.
Reed isn’t expected to pick up the crucial situations where the Tigers used Alburquerque. He’ll pitch in middle relief, while Jose Ortega will face a more challenging role.