DETROIT -- The Tigers trimmed back to a seven-man bullpen to make room for Buck Farmer's promotion Wednesday. The reliever sent back, left-hander Blaine Hardy, was the sign of a shift in the club's relief flow chart, at least in the short term.It's not a sign of disappointment in Hardy,
DETROIT -- The Tigers trimmed back to a seven-man bullpen to make room for Buck Farmer's promotion Wednesday. The reliever sent back, left-hander Blaine Hardy, was the sign of a shift in the club's relief flow chart, at least in the short term.
It's not a sign of disappointment in Hardy, according to manager Brad Ausmus. But for now, Daniel Stumpf gets his chance as the Tigers' lefty middle reliever, and Hardy is a Toledo Mud Hen for the time being.
Hardy had been part of the Tigers' bullpen since April 21, serving as the secondary lefty behind Justin Wilson and a four- or five-out reliever in other stretches. Once Wilson became the closer, Hardy took on a bigger role, helping bridge the gap to the ninth inning against left-handed hitters.
"He's pitched pretty well for us if you look at him over the long haul," Ausmus said. "I have no complaints about Blaine Hardy."
But after a strong first month, Hardy struggled overall. He allowed two runs on eight hits over 10 innings in his first 11 outings, walking two and striking out nine. Since then, he allowed eight runs, six earned, on 13 hits in his past seven outings, including an insurance run to the Angels on Tuesday.
For the season, Hardy has held left-handed hitters to 6-for-24 with a walk and two strikeouts. He allowed two home runs to lefty hitters in a three-day span in mid-May, including a go-ahead homer by Baltimore's Chris Davis in extra innings May 16. Hardy had greater struggles against righties, who went 15-for-46 (.326) with three doubles, two homers, five walks and 11 strikeouts against him.
For now, enter Stumpf, the Rule 5 Draft pick from last winter who became a free agent near the end of Spring Training when the Tigers removed him from their 25-man roster. Detroit didn't want him in its Opening Day bullpen, but liked him enough to convince him to sign a Minor League deal to stay in the system.
Stumpf earned his call two weeks ago by striking out 26 over 21 1/3 innings with 19 hits allowed. He walked five, two of them intentionally. He has faced just three batters, allowing a hit to the one left-handed batter he faced in White Sox catcher Omar Narvaez. The other two were switch-hitters; he allowed a hit to one and struck out the other.
Add in Stumpf's numbers at Triple-A Toledo, however, and left-handed hitters have twice as many strikeouts (16) as hits (eight) against the 26-year-old. That's a reversal of his numbers from last year, when he allowed a higher average to left-handed hitters (.298) than right-handed batters (.212).
With Wilson focused on save situations, Stumpf stands to get more opportunities against lefty hitters in the innings leading up to the ninth.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.