Sunday, June 21, 2009

Figaro allows Leyland to rearrange rotation

        For weeks, Jim Leyland has been thinking about separating Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson at the top of the Tigers’ starting rotation. The encouraging performance of rookie right hander Alfredo Figaro in his major league debut on Saturday has given the manager the opportunity to do just that.
        As a result, Verlander will make his next start on Friday, with his normal four days’ rest. But Jackson, who pitches against the Cubs on Tuesday, won’t start again until next Sunday in Houston. Figaro will pitch on Saturday.
        Until circumstances force Leyland to change things again, Figaro _ the Tigers’ No. 5 starter _ will occupy the No. 2 spot in the rotation, between Verlander and Jackson.
        Having their workhorse aces, Verlander and Jackson, pitching back-to-back at the front end of the rotation, certainly had its advantages. It gave the Tigers one of the most formidable one-two punches in baseball.
        But it had its unintended consequences. It also put a huge strain on the bullpen the other three days.
        Leyland is committed to protecting Rick Porcello and has yet to let him reach 100 pitches. But that often means as many as four innings of relief. Armando Galarraga, who continues to struggle, Dontrelle Willis, who is back on the disabled list, and even Figaro on Saturday have all needed plenty of help from the bullpen, too.
        And recently Ryan Perry has pitched more like a rookie than a dependable big league reliever.
        By rearranging the rotation, Leyland hopes to spread that work load out a little.
        “I’ve got to protect Porcello, I’ve got to protect Figaro, and I’ve had to protect Perry _ that worries me,” Leyland admitted Sunday.
        “You can protect one starter. But when you have to protect two starters and a reliever, that scares me.”
        So for now, anyway, the startng rotation will be: Verlander, Figaro, Jackson, Porcello, Galarraga.


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