Alburquerque key to bullpen configuration
Verlander throws off flat ground; Perry back in the relief mix
CHICAGO -- A couple of different Tigers took some responsibility for Wednesday's eighth-inning meltdown, mainly third baseman Nick Castellanos and reliever Joba Chamberlain. One name that didn't come up was Al Alburquerque.
In the current state of Detroit's bullpen, however, Wednesday was an example of why the Tigers need to get Alburquerque back in form, and why pitching coach Jeff Jones continues to work with the right-hander long after he got over his sinus infection.
"We need to get him going," Jones said.
Manager Brad Ausmus used three different relievers for two outs apiece to cover the sixth and seventh innings. The first was Alburquerque, who bounced back from an Alexei Ramirez leadoff single to retire Tyler Flowers and Micah Johnson. The next was Tom Gorzelanny, who entered to retire Melky Cabrera once Alburquerque walked left-handed-hitting speedster Adam Eaton.
"Once Eaton got on, we kind of had to make the move," Ausmus said. "There was a lot of concern that Eaton, who was the tying run at that point, would steal his way into scoring position with Albie."
The out dropped Cabrera to 2-for-27 on the season against left-handers. When Alburquerque is in form, though, he generally transcends lefty-righty matchups. But Alburquerque hasn't been in form, arguably since the season began. As a result, Ausmus needed Gorzelanny in the sixth inning, thus eliminating a big option when Cabrera came back up in the eighth.
"Albie gets in trouble when he's having issues with the strike zone," Ausmus said. "When Albie's throwing strikes, he's very effective. I think his swings are not as much mechanically related as they are commanding the baseball."
• Justin Verlander threw 50 pitches off flat ground for a second straight day Thursday morning. He's expected to progress slowly from there and likely won't throw off a mound for another 7-10 days, according to Jones, who believes Verlander will proceed cautiously.
"I think he knows that if he has another setback, it could cost him the whole season," Jones said. "Obviously, he's eager to get going, but he knows that he needs to [go] slow."
• Ryan Perry hasn't been a topic of conversation among Tigers relief options since 2011. He might be again soon, now that he's at Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers, who re-signed the former first-round pick to a Minor League deal in February following three season in the Nationals' system, promoted him after just two outings at Double-A Erie. His fastball registered at 93-95 mph, according to observers, but he also commanded it, and his slider had its old bite.