Benoit being moved out of setup role

Benoit being moved out of setup role

Benoit being moved out of setup role
DETROIT -- The Tigers signed Joaquin Benoit to serve as their eighth-inning setup man. Until he works through his early-season issues, though, it appears he won't be doing that.

Manager Jim Leyland told Tigers play-by-play broadcaster Dan Dickerson as part of his pregame show that he was moving Benoit out of the setup position for the time being. There was no clear indication who would fill the spot or whether eighth-inning leads would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Leyland refused to talk about Benoit when asked by reporters on Tuesday. His remarks after Monday's loss hinted that he was pondering a potential shift.

"He's an important piece of the puzzle," Leyland said, "but we're going to have to look at it and figure something out. I'll have to figure out the strategic part."

Technically, Benoit's loss on Monday night wasn't a setup situation. He entered to begin the eighth inning with the score tied at 1, then gave up three runs on four hits. He exited once the inning was complete to a good amount of boos from the crowd at Comerica Park.

Pitching coach Rick Knapp indicated after the game that the team could try pitching Benoit in lower-pressure situations. The way the starters have been pitching lately, though, that's easier said than done. The only reliever to pitch in last weekend's rain-shortened two-game sweep of the Royals was closer Jose Valverde.

Monday, by comparison, was Benoit's first outing in five days and his third since May 2.

Knapp believes that the issue is more mental than physical.

"Is it mechanics? I don't think it's mechanics," Knapp said. "I think it's just confidence. 'Throw the ball down' isn't really something you can think about. You have to leverage it that way. You have to know that you're going to throw the ball down and not have to think about it. When you have to think about it, then you have a better chance [of making] a mistake. And that's kind of about where he's at right now. He's trying to execute pitches maybe too hard, and he's not."

Both Knapp and Benoit felt that his previous outing, last week at Minnesota, was a big step forward. He gave up three hits over 1 1/3 innings, and a game-tying run that was unearned thanks to a double-error play, but he also kept the Twins from pulling ahead with help from two eighth-inning strikeouts.

"I think Minnesota was a good positive stepping point," Knapp said. "He'll get more opportunities. It's one of those deals where you have to execute to get confidence. Confidence isn't something that you're going to just show up with. It isn't something that just walks through the door. You have your swagger, but I think right now he's a little bit in his own head."