As a quick site note, my schedule this week makes my recaps sketchy at best. They will return. But for now, I’m just askin’ and answerin’.
When the Tigers call up Francisco Cruceta, who is going to be sent to Toledo?
The way I see it, and most observers, it’s not a matter of if Cruceta gets the call up to the Tigers bullpen, it’s a matter of when. That when is coming soon. He has pitched in Toledo three times since receiving his visa and warming up in Lakeland. But the Tigers have to either bring him to the majors or put him on the waiver wire by May 10. He’s made three appearances in Toledo. He’s got 15 strikeouts in 7 innings to go with three walks and one run allowed.
That leaves three possibilities for taking the trip to Toledo (or the waiver wire), in order of most likely to least:
- RHP Zach Miner – He struggled mightily and was the worst pitcher — statistically — for most of the season. He may be the worst pitcher statistically still. His ERA is still 9.00, his WHIP 1.80 and he has allowed more runs than hhe’s struck out batters. On the other hand, he has allowed just one earned run in the 7 innings he has thrown since a meltdown against the Indians in mid-April. Oh, and he has an option remaining. He’s not safe.
- LHP Clay Rapada – I do have some fear for Rapada based on his inexperience and Jim Leyland’s decision earlier this year to go with just one left-hander. Now I think it makes no sense to send him down myself — his has a 0.38 WHIP in 8 innings and can pitch to right- or left-handed batters — but I think we have to entertain the possibility it could happen. He’s probably not safe.
- RHP Jason Grilli – He melted down twice in the first week. He was awful. The home crowd boo’d him, and who could blame them? But since then, he has not allowed a run since April 8, and his ERA is down to 3.29 for the year. So that’s 11.1 scoreless innings. Now I know he’s allowed a couple of other pitchers’ runs in. I don’t have the exact figure on how many. So it’s not all roses and peaches. He has nearly a strikeout per inning, more than a groundball per inning and has faced just four batters over the minimum required to complete his work in his past five appearances (29 batters for 25 outs). He’s safe.
So, you can tell, my best guess is Miner is the disposable one. He is pitching better — the whole bullpen is. And that’s a good thing. But with an option remaining and probably the worst stuff of the three, he should be sent back to Toledo. Maybe the Tigers should try to stretch him back into a starting pitcher, which you may remember is how he came to Detroit in the first place back in 2006. But they probably won’t. In any case, a little work in Toledo and a callup if there are any injuries to the pitching staff seems the best move to me. Rapada both deserves his spot and he contributes quite a bit. And Grilli really isn’t that bad. (No, I swear, he’s not!) He may not be popular — inexplicably, because he really hasn’t struggled nearly as much as the public perception goes — but he’s a deserving member of the team.
Now the corollary question: Whose role does Cruceta replace in the bullpen?
This is a more tricky question, because we can’t really assume Cruceta replaces Miner’s mop-up position. For a guy as hyped — and apparently as effective — as Cruceta, that would a waste of talent, wouldn’t it? Aquino Lopez should has been effective as a late-inning reliever. Denny Bautista has walked a lot of guys, which makes me think Cruceta has a chance to surpass him in tight situations, though I think Leyland’s going to want to see him prove himself first. So he should be a 7th inning guy to start. If he proves himself, I could see him filling the classic Joel Zumays c. 2006 role of bridging the gap from starter to 8th inning in a tight game, no matter if that takes 1 out or 6.
But I admit that’s totally a guess.
Update: On further review, I believe the short answer is, he fills in Bobby Seay’s one-inning role….
But that’s still just a guess.