Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Bullpen help likely to come down the road

MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While the Tigers appear to be making progress in their quest for left-field help, their market for relief help appears to be stagnant. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski acknowledged Monday as the Winter Meetings began that a veteran reliever would be a "plus," but offered little progress toward finding one.

"I think there's a lot more closers out there, and different degrees of closers," Dombrowski said. "But the next set of guys, I'm not so sure how many guys out there, really, at this time. So we'll see what happens."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While the Tigers appear to be making progress in their quest for left-field help, their market for relief help appears to be stagnant. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski acknowledged Monday as the Winter Meetings began that a veteran reliever would be a "plus," but offered little progress toward finding one.

"I think there's a lot more closers out there, and different degrees of closers," Dombrowski said. "But the next set of guys, I'm not so sure how many guys out there, really, at this time. So we'll see what happens."

Even with Joe Nathan and Brian Wilson off the market, the ranks of free-agent closers include former Tigers Joaquin Benoit, Jose Veras and Fernando Rodney, as well as Grant Balfour, Chris Perez and Kevin Gregg, plus injured Joel Hanrahan Andrew Bailey and Rafael Betancourt Even John Axford, a setup man last year after 81 saves over the previous two seasons, is generating closer interest, but has not drawn interest from the Tigers at this point.

Not all of them are going to get closer jobs, meaning some of them will end up signing for setup work. If the Tigers are willing to play the waiting game, they could get the help, though Dombrowski characterized an addition more as support for Bruce Rondon in the setup role rather than someone to bump Rondon out of it.

"Now we're not involved in that market, since we signed our closer," Dombrowski said. "We don't have quite the same pulse of that, since I've sort of moved on to some other areas of focus. Could that happen? It probably could."

New manager Brad Ausmus' view of bullpen roles remains traditional.

Asked his views on Nathan's addition as closer, Ausmus hinted he'd prefer set roles for his relievers, and that he sees the ninth as a different inning for any reliever to tackle.

"Just from a team perspective, everyone is much more comfortable in the ninth inning when you have an established closer like Joe Nathan," Ausmus said, "than you would be with either a young closer in the making or with a closer by committee. And I think it also trickles down to the guys who are setting up for him. They know how they're slotting in front of him. There's a lot of stress removed from the other guys in the bullpen, as well as the manager.

"From a mental standpoint, there's a huge difference from pitching the eighth inning to pitching the ninth inning. You can pitch the eighth inning, give up the tying run or even the lead, and your team still has a chance to win the game. And when you're the closer -- and I think this is why it takes a special makeup -- you're the last line of defense."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

Detroit Tigers, Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon