"I don't want to say that Sean has not performed for this club, because, in early August in Seattle, he pitched the best game of the year. But since then, it hadn't been so good."
Douglass' success was more than one performance. Called up in June to replace struggling Wilfredo Ledezma, Douglass continued his breakout season at Toledo by going 3-0 in his first five Tigers starts. He owned a 4-1 record and a 3.32 ERA upon tossing eight innings of one-run ball against Seattle in August, and had Trammell talking about him being in the rotation next year.
Since then, Douglass' rise has turned into a relative freefall, and his future as a starter became more of a countdown. He's given up 30 runs on 37 hits, nine of them homers, in 22 2/3 innings over his last five starts. The capper came Friday, when the White Sox scored eight times on as many hits to chase Douglass after 3 2/3 innings.
That performance merely continued a trend of bad starting for the Tigers over the last nine games. But pitching coach Bob Cluck had warned beforehand that it was a big start for him.
"I'm not singling anybody out," Trammell said, "but it's been mistakes that have cost him."
Douglass, who owns a 5-3 record despite a 6.39 ERA, braced himself after Friday's performance. "I kind of thought it was going to happen," he said. "I haven't been throwing the ball well lately. It really didn't surprise me."
The surprise was in how well Douglass took the news. Rather than sulk over a demotion to the bullpen, he hopes to use the move as an opportunity to show he can be a swing guy and try to win a spot on next year's pitching staff.
"Obviously all I can do is go out there and do well out of the 'pen," Douglass said. "I want to show them I can do both [roles]. I feel like I can. I think to have somebody who can do both is very valuable to a team."
Therein lies another challenge, since Colon has done both roles as well. Wednesday will mark Colon's first start since July 10 as an injury fill-in for the Atlanta Braves. Though he spent his first month as a Tiger working long relief with mixed results, the prevailing thought was that his future was as a starting pitcher, since he had a better variety of pitches.
"He has big-league pitches and he's a smart kid," Cluck said. "He works hard and he has a track record of success as a starter. Some guys just pitch better one way or the other."
The move solves one segment of the Tigers' pulverized pitching staff, but it does nothing for the rest of the rotation. Trammell admitted there's not much else he can do if the struggles continue, at least until Triple-A Toledo's season ends.
"Our choices are limited," Trammell said. "We're hoping this thing stops. I believe we're certainly better than we have shown of late."
Injury updates: Magglio Ordonez, Dmitri Young and Ivan Rodriguez were all in Saturday's lineup after injuries hampered them Friday. Ordonez's sore elbow was fine, and Young's bruised left thumb wasn't bad enough to keep him out of the DH spot. Rodriguez, meanwhile, has played through his jammed left pinky finger for most of the summer, and aggravating it didn't make a difference.
Lowdown on Ledezma: Trammell and Cluck heard game reports on Ledezma's wild performance Friday for Triple-A Toledo, but neither had any specific reason for his struggles.
Ledezma gave up five runs on two doubles and five walks without retiring a batter. Just 10 of his 32 pitches went for strikes, which raises alarms for someone who came from the disabled list a few weeks ago following elbow troubles.
"I guess it was pretty apparent he was wild," Trammell said. "I was hoping he could finish out strong. I don't know how the injury plays into this."
Zumaya works quickly: Joel Zumaya showed no signs of rust or fatigue for Triple-A Toledo on Saturday night, after his last start was scratched. Working on 10 days' rest, Zumaya struck out nine Columbus Clippers in four innings with one run allowed.
The Tigers finish their nine-game road trip on Sunday with a 3:05 p.m. ET series game against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Jeremy Bonderman (14-11, 4.44 ERA) will try to break his recent struggles in a potential pitching duel against Chicago's Jon Garland (16-8, 3.45 ERA).