Notes: Leyland stands by 'pen

Notes: Leyland stands by pen

TORONTO -- The Tigers had nine losses in their last 12 games entering Saturday. Their closer has struggled and their setup man isn't throwing enough strikes.

Believe it or not, this is the type of stretch manager Jim Leyland likes.

"This is one of my favorite times," Leyland said. "It's easy for everybody else to criticize, and rightfully so, that we blew a game. Yeah, we blew a game. There's no question. We blew a couple. However, they don't need a manager when they're getting everything right all the time and everything's going perfect. They don't need me. Think Chris Shelton needed me the first two weeks of the season? He needs me now.

"It's one of my favorite times because I know that that's when you're supposed to do your job," Leyland continued. "Everybody's on the bandwagon when things are going good. But the manager's got to be there for when [it] hits the fan. The manager has to take responsibility. And I will take total responsibility for this team's performance. I'm not going to be there like a bandwagon when things are going good, and all of a sudden jump ship on these guys when things happen. I'm the manager, and I'll be there for them -- win, lose or draw -- as long as the effort's there. And the effort's there, and I have no complaints."

Instead of moving Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney out of late-inning roles, Leyland's sticking with them while they work through their struggles. Both Rodney and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez believe they've spotted a mechanical flaw that's costing the reliever command.

Rodney said video work after Friday's loss showed he's flying open a little in his delivery, where his arm motion is too far behind his body. It's costing him both a little velocity and the ability to spot pitches.

"I feel strong," Rodney said. "It's just a little bit mechanical. It's a little thing I have to work on. I know I can pitch better than that."

As for Jones, Leyland said his closer might be outthinking himself. The manager also cited pitch selection when catcher Ivan Rodriguez called for a curveball instead of a sinker against Reed Johnson on Friday when they were looking for a double play. That factor, Leyland said, had nothing to do with Jones, instead involving Rodriguez thinking he saw something from Johnson.

"He thinks too much instead of letting his talent take over," Leyland said of Jones. "He's a very talented guy. Sometimes you outthink yourself. He's thinking too much. Todd just has to react and pitch. He's an outstanding pitcher, and I like him."

Asked if he thinks Jones is still trying to pitch through hamstring and leg problems, Leyland said, "Probably."

Lost in the meltdown was the seventh inning from Joel Zumaya, who threw less than half of his 29 pitches for strikes and walked two batters before stranding them. Had Zumaya retired the side in fewer pitches, Leyland said he would've had him at least start the eighth.

Of the Tigers' three late-inning guys, only Jones was available Saturday. Zumaya and Rodney had the day off, meaning Leyland had to look to long reliever Roman Colon for the seventh and eighth innings.

Once they're all available, Leyland has no plans to change. He doesn't think Zumaya's ready to close, and he doesn't think Jones and Rodney should be deserted.

"I'm not worried about either one of them," Leyland said. "People make a big deal about situations like that. Todd Jones is our closer. Rodney's a part-time closer and a great setup man. Joel Zumaya's kind of a mix-and-match setup/eighth-inning [guy] right now. He's not ready [to close]. And I think we're in good shape. I really like our bullpen a lot.

"I'm going to go with what I've been doing. And if they're not good enough, they're not good enough. It's as simple as that."

Guillen out, Magglio still in: The bullpen wasn't the only spot Leyland's shuffled. Shortstop Carlos Guillen was out of the lineup Saturday with fluid buildup in his right knee. Leyland said after the game he's uncertain Guillen will be available Sunday.

Magglio Ordonez was also bothered by his knee, having fouled a ball off his left knee in the third inning, but he was back in the lineup Saturday.

"My knee's in the same place," Ordonez said, "and it's right there."

Ivan Rodriguez did not catch Saturday, but he remained in the lineup at DH. He's expected to catch again Sunday.

Crazy eights: No surprise that Friday's eight-run eighth marked the most runs the Tigers have surrendered in an inning this season. The last time the Tigers surrendered eight runs or more in an inning was a nine-run sixth against Cleveland last Aug. 5. Detroit had given up 24 eighth-inning runs all season before Friday night.

The eight runs are also the most surrendered by the Tigers' bullpen in a game since giving that many to the Red Sox last August 16, including a seven-run 10th inning in what ended up being a 10-7 loss.

Coming up: The Tigers and Blue Jays finish their three-game series Sunday with a 1:07 p.m. ET matinee at Rogers Centre. Nate Robertson (5-3, 3.25 ERA) will try to add to his success against the Blue Jays, whom he has held to five runs on 12 hits in 16 career innings with 18 strikeouts. Rookie Ty Taubenheim (0-2, 5.65 ERA) will start for Toronto.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.