Perry settles into heart of Tigers bullpen
Reliever learning how to deal with rigors of big leagues
DETROIT -- A year ago at this point, Ryan Perry was still adjusting to life as a Major Leaguer, having just made the club out of Spring Training. On Saturday, Perry was the Tigers' closer if they needed one, with Jose Valverde and Joel Zumaya off for the day.
That's a sign of how far the 23-year-old has progressed in a year of big league ball. A big part of that progression, manager Jim Leyland suggested, was simply being ready.
"I think the one thing that he has learned in the process of last year," Leyland said, "is that you have to come here every day possibly ready to pitch, and effectively. I think it surprised him last year when I used him maybe a couple times in a row or something like that, and I think there's a knack for learning how to handle the whole overall professional baseball thing, keeping yourself [ready] on an everyday basis, coming here ready to go. That's not always easy."
It's an adjustment sometimes for pitchers who were standouts in college, even out of the bullpen. Sometimes college teams will reserve their top pitchers for their most important games of the week, usually on weekends, rather than midweek games. Other times, they'll be used differently.
Once Perry made the big club out of camp, he was thrown fully into the mix. He pitched on back-to-back days six times last year. Those six outings without rest, though, were kept short, totaling 5 1/3 innings with two runs allowed on six hits. His best numbers, not surprisingly, came after two days of rest.
He's likely to get many more back-to-back opportunities this year, even when the Tigers' bullpen is fully rested.
Everyone gets taste of game action
DETROIT -- Five games into the Tigers' season, they've used the same lineup just twice. Every positional player on the roster has had at least one day in the starting lineup, and backup catcher Alex Avila -- whom manager Jim Leyland said was going to have to pick his spots to play -- has started twice.
When Leyland talks about getting the entire roster involved, he's serious so far. He's serious enough that it invokes the term chemistry, which he normally considers overrated in the big leagues.
"I'm going to mix up the lineup and let everybody play," Leyland said, "and try to create a real team-type effort on a nightly basis. I'm going to continue to do that throughout the season. People talk about chemistry and stuff. I think chemistry is graded by that kind of stuff, making everybody feel that they're part of the team and giving everybody a chance to contribute.
"Most nights, obviously, you're going to have [Magglio] Ordonez and [Miguel] Cabrera and [Carlos] Guillen in there. But I still think it's important to make sure everybody gets a chance, a chance to play. I think that creates more of the chemistry-type stuff that everybody talks about. I think that's the stuff that creates chemistry moreso than the personality of the players. We have great guys. If we win some games, we'll have chemistry. And if we don't, we won't."
Leyland OK with Valverde's celebrations
DETROIT -- Jose Valverde has a long history of animated save celebrations in his career. Friday's fist pumps at first base marked his first such animation in Detroit, where fans grew used to Fernando Rodney throwing an arm in the air or Todd Jones' more subdued celebrations.
Manager Jim Leyland had little trouble handling Rodney's eccentricities, especially as long as he pitched well. He isn't going to raise an issue with Valverde's displays.
"Everybody thinks that stuff's all new," Leyland said. "I don't know. I saw Babe Ruth rounding second, throwing his hat like this. I saw the late and great Mark Fidrych do his stuff. I've seen some of the best relievers shoot 'em down. I don't like it, but if he saves games, I'll be [celebrating]. If he doesn't save games, I'll be [thumbs down].
"A lot of them are fired up now and pump their fist when they get a big strikeout. Sometimes, when you're old like me, it's best to look the other way once in a while."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.