Tigers Notes: Blaine Hardy recalled to boost Tigers’ teetering bullpen

Detroit signed Blaine Hardy as a minor league free agent after spring training in 2013.

Scott Rovak

DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers have another left-hander in the bullpen for Sunday afternoon’s game with the Minnesota Twins, which begins at 1 p.m., with coverage on FOX Sports Detroit starting at noon with Tigers Live.

Blaine Hardy, who has a sharp curve and can throw up to five innings after starting six games in 20 appearances for Toledo, was recalled to boost a teetering bullpen.

Corey Knebel was last year’s first-round pick, but had a 6.75 ERA and 1.65 WHIP after six appearances and was sent back to the Mud Hens to work on his command.

"We know (Hardy) from spring training and he’s another left-handed arm," said Detroit manager Brad Ausmus. "And we have some teams coming in with some left-handed hitters with Kansas City and Cleveland. So, he gives us some options."

Hardy could very likely pitch in Sunday’s game being started by Rick Porcello. Detroit’s other lefty relievers both could use a day off. Ian Krol threw 32 pitches on Saturday, and Phil Coke threw 22 while pitching in consecutive games.

Krol hasn’t been 100 percent, either.

"He was a little bit tender (Saturday)," Ausmus said. "But he doesn’t really have any pain when he’s pitching."

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Hardy provides for more bullpen flexibility.

"The curveball was the one thing that stood out about him," said Ausmus of Hardy’s pitching in Grapefruit League games. "And he has the cutter and changeup for right-handers. He can go five innings. It adds length to your bullpen. It allows us to use Coke earlier against left-handers."

Coke, despite allowing three runs in one inning Saturday, has once again become a usable pitcher with the game on the line. He’s not been scored upon in five of seven June outings, and the 9.39 ERA he began May with has been whittled down to 6.56.

Detroit has two rookies in its bullpen in Hardy and Evan Reed, and Krol is in his second season. Ausmus was asked if the organization staying with Coke through some awfully tough outings was the result of a need to have one more experienced arm in the bullpen.

"That was definitely a factor," said Ausmus. "It’s tough to replace experience."

Hardy, 27, will be making his major league debut. He was a 22nd-round pick of the Kansas City Royals, who open a four-game series in Detroit on Monday. Detroit signed him as a minor league free agent after spring training in 2013.

His curve, which is a recent repertoire addition, has ended up getting him to the majors.

"I was a slider guy and did not throw the curve until the last two years with Kansas City," Hardy said. He steadily improved the pitch.

"And then when I came to the Tigers it came together," Hardy added.

Hardy was 3-2 with a 2.68 ERA and 53 strikeouts with 13 walks in 47 innings for Toledo.

Knebel gave Hardy the pink backpack filled with bullpen treats carried by the low man on seniority while packing his bags for Toledo.

"He’s been pretty developmental," Ausmus said of Knebel. "And he needs to pitch on a regular basis."

Knebel, 22, is considered a future closer possibility. However, he pitched only once every fourth day since being called up by Detroit. And he’d appeared in only three Triple-A games before coming to the Tigers. So, there is plenty of room for seasoning where Knebel is concerned.

Hardy’s first shot at the majors comes on Father’s Day, and he expects his father, Dave, to be at Comerica Park after flying to Detroit from Phoenix.

"I didn’t think he could make it here for Father’s Day," said Hardy, smiling. "Having him here is going to be amazing."