Tigers must figure out what to do with Lowe

June 19th, 2016
Mark Lowe has yielded 32 hits and 11 walks over 21 innings.

KANSAS CITY -- Mark Lowe's numbers are snowballing. The Tigers' options with him remain the same.

"There's not a ton of options," manager Brad Ausmus said after six consecutive hits knocked out Lowe on Saturday night. "He's got to get right."

That was the intention behind moving Shane Greene into the setup role two weeks ago. But whereas Greene has seemingly found his calling, Lowe has yet to find last season's form, even in lower-pressure situations.

None of the hits off Lowe on Saturday night went for extra bases, but considering the Royals already had an 11-5 lead at the time, they didn't need to swing for the fences. After Whit Merrifield flied out to right, Christian Colon, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain all singled, the latter two with line drives up the middle. Salvador Perez's hit to third was initially ruled an error on Nick Castellanos before being changed.

Kendrys Morales and Paulo Orlando hit ground-ball singles to complete the damage, leading Ausmus to bring in utility man Andrew Romine to pitch. It's the last thing he wanted to do, but Lowe's struggles left him little choice.

Now Ausmus has to decide what to try next.

"I've been where he is," Ausmus said. "You feel awful, because you feel like you're letting your teammates down, the fans down, and you know you're better than that. And it's very difficult to go through. He's been working his tail off to try and right the ship, but right now it hasn't worked."

All five runs off Lowe were earned, raising his ERA to 10.71. He has yielded 32 hits and 11 walks over 21 innings. It's the kind of struggle that had him bouncing around Triple-A clubs two years ago, when he had a 6.05 ERA over 41 2/3 innings at Columbus before finding his career rejuvenation with Seattle in 2015.

Lowe was bouncing around on Minor League deals back then. He has a multiyear contract now, which looms as a factor in anything the Tigers decide.

The Tigers signed Lowe for two years and $11 million last December as part of their bullpen makeover. They would have to essentially eat that money to try to send Lowe to the Minors. He has enough service time to decline a Minor League assignment and become a free agent.

The hope was that the Tigers could find enough situations for him and Anibal Sanchez to fix their struggles without overtaxing their remaining relievers in tight situations. Although Sanchez has seemingly improved, Lowe's struggles have statistically grown worse.