Notes: Seay solid for Tigers
Reliever excels against both lefty and righty batters
DETROIT -- Bobby Seay almost had his win.
Seay was in line to get the victory Tuesday night until Melvin Mora scored the tying run in the top of the seventh, Seay's final inning of work. It would've been his first win since his rookie season of 2001. For him, though, simply playing this kind of role is arguably a victory in itself.
"He's such a professional, and a good kid, your heart kind of feels special for guys like that," manager Jim Leyland said.
When Seay earned what remains his only Major League victory, he was just 23 years old and still a top-10 prospect in the Devil Rays organization. He gave up nine earned runs over 13 innings that year, but when he entered a 6-5 game against the A's on Sept. 1, his scoreless inning set up a Devil Rays comeback in the bottom of the eighth. Two of the Oakland hitters he retired, Miguel Tejada and Ramon Hernandez, were in Baltimore's lineup Tuesday's night. He retired them both times.
Seay remembers the game well, but the "W" didn't cross his mind as he watched Detroit's comeback from the dugout Tuesday.
"You know, it really didn't," Seay said. "I just wanted to be on the winning team."
He's not that highly-touted prospect anymore, obviously, not with his 29th birthday coming up next month. But in his 11th professional season, he has a chance to finally stick in the big leagues.
It's ironic, since he made the team in its final days of Spring Training as an injury replacement. When Chad Durbin went into the rotation to replace an injured Kenny Rogers, Seay was called back from Minor League camp, a couple of days after he'd been sent over there.
When Leyland sent him out of camp in March, he said that Seay had pitched better than he did the year before, when he made the Opening Day roster as the second left-handed reliever. So far, by and large, Seay has backed that up in the regular season. Tuesday's run was only the second he has allowed in seven innings this season, and the first in 5 1/3 innings since April 11.
He has done his specialist-type role against left-handed hitters, holding them to 1-for-11 with a double and three strikeouts. However, he has more than held his own against righties, who are 2-for-13 off him.
As stressed as Detroit's bullpen had become over the past week or so, Leyland still needs those outings from Seay, not just the cameo appearances for left-handed batters.
"His stuff's better," Leyland said. "He's got more life on his ball. He's throwing more strikes. The ball's moving better. He's doing a good job, he really is. I'm really tickled to see that."
Leyland likes the story line, but Seay isn't thinking about that. He's just focused on his role.
"I'm here to make an impact and I'm here to help this team win," Seay said. "Just the feeling that I get when I contribute and [help] win ballgames, that's all I can ask for. Individual numbers and stats, it doesn't mean anything to me. Wins are wins."
Mesa back Friday: The Tigers cleared a roster spot for Jose Mesa's return by optioning Aquilino Lopez back to Triple-A Toledo. They'll activate Mesa from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday.
Leyland said after the game that he'll use Mesa according to the situation. But simply by having him, he's expected to ease some of the workload from Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, both of whom have battled through slumps in Mesa's absence.
"If he does the job, it'll certainly help," Leyland said.
Mesa struggled from the outset as well, allowing six runs on seven hits over 2 2/3 innings in four appearances. He went on the DL on April 17 with a strained right groin, marking his first DL stint since 1991.
Ideally, Leyland said, he'd like to use Rodney and Zumaya now in a way makes at least one of them available each day. He has alternated them over the last week and a half, using one of them in every game since April 23.
Casey at the bat: For one night, Sean Casey felt like he was back in the National League. Between a pinch-hit, go-ahead single and a stolen base, he was playing the type of ball more often seen in the Senior Circuit.
Believe it or not, one was just about as rare as the other.
Casey's role on the back end of a double steal on Tuesday night was his first stolen base since July 9, 1995, when he was still a Cincinnati Red. His last pinch-hit goes further back to May 28, 2005, and he hadn't had a pinch-hit RBI since May 25, 2003.
He went 0-for-7 as a pinch-hitter last year, and Tuesday's hit merely raised his career average as a pinch-hitter to .216 (11-for-51). There's a discipline to pinch-hitting, Casey acknowledges, and he doesn't have it.
"Mark Sweeney used to do it," Casey said, "and I always admired how he could do it. When you do it for a living, it's a different mind frame."
Leyland, who managed Major League career pinch-hit leader Lenny Harris in Colorado in 1999, has a rough idea.
"In most cases, I would say it's a guy that can hit a fastball," Leyland said. "Those guys come off the bench and they swing, and if they get a fastball, they don't miss it."
Durbin to start next week: Though the Tigers have two off-days coming up before next Tuesday, Leyland will not skip any members of his rotation through this next turn. He will, however, flip Chad Durbin and Nate Robertson when the Tigers return home for next week's series against the Mariners.
Thus, Robertson will start Tuesday's series opener against the M's, followed by Durbin. Robertson, then, will also start next Sunday night's nationally televised game against the Twins at the Metrodome.
Ordonez, Robertson earn honors: Magglio Ordonez and Robertson were voted as Tigers Player and Pitcher of the Month, respectively. Ordonez hit .344 (31-for-90) in April with 20 runs scored, 13 doubles, four home runs and 26 RBIs. Robertson went 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA.
Fore: Tigers first-base coach Andy Van Slyke retired more than a decade ago, but he's still apparently in an All-Star category. Golf Digest magazine just ranked him sixth on its rankings of athlete-golfers.
Van Slyke was tied for sixth with Minnesota Vikings placekicker Ryan Longwell with a plus-1.8 handicap. Third baseman Brandon Inge made the list in a three-way tie for 104th with a 5.7 handicap.
Former Major League pitcher Rick Rhoden, who played for Leyland on the 1986 Pittsburgh Pirates, topped the list at plus-2.5.
Coming up: The Tigers have Thursday off before a three-game weekend series at Kansas City. Justin Verlander (1-1, 2.79) will start Friday's series opener opposite Brian Bannister (0-1, 4.91). Game time is 8:10 p.m. ET.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.