Leyland lauds retiring Jones

Leyland lauds retiring Jones

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland was not shy in his praise for Todd Jones in his 2 1/2 years as Tigers closer.

The two months Detroit has had without him as the closer, Leyland said, has shown how tough his job was.

While the Tigers scheduled a Thursday morning press conference in which Jones is expected to discuss his retirement with reporters, Leyland gave his reaction on Wednesday. The Tigers have expected for some time that Jones would call it a career at season's end, but his absence for the last month hasn't changed their feelings on him.

"The one thing that I like the most about him is that he made them earn it," Leyland said. "For the most part, if he got beat, they were going to have to hit the ball. He threw strikes. He wasn't afraid."

That seems especially poignant now with the Tigers' bullpen struggling in September without him. When Leyland was discussing what went wrong with the season on Tuesday, he said the bullpen "hasn't been in sync all year."

With Jones out for much of the last two months, however, Leyland said the trickle-down effect has been noticeable. The last two months, he said on Tuesday, have been "total disarray."

The lesson that has been learned is that ninth-inning outs in close games are different than others and not everyone can do it. Jones didn't always convert them, Leyland admitted, but he had the mentality to go after them day after day.

"When you really think about it," Leyland said on Wednesday, "if you just think about where we've been at since he left, if he would've been normal, given what we did for us, we would've been somewhat better -- not in first place, but we'd be somewhat better off.

"I like the fact that he was going to go after them and they were going to have to beat him. Some nights they did and most of the time they didn't. ... It might've gotten a little edgy at times. It might've gotten a little nerve-wracking at times. But for the most part, when the game was over, we were shaking hands [after a victory]. However it got done, it got done and there's something to be said for that."

As much as anything, Leyland said, that says something about Jones' temperament.

"The key to a lot of closers is they can mull over a blown save and they can be upset about it," Leyland continued. "I mean, the eyes are on them every night. They're out there when the game's going to be over. I think the good thing about him was, however hard he took it, the next day he was going to be ready to pitch again and he was able to turn the page. He was good at that. He took it hard when he blew a save. Fortunately, he didn't blow many here.

"There's a lot of closers that either are a lot of goofy or a lot of mean. He was goofy and that's probably one of the things that made him good. I really liked him. He was a trooper for us. He's had a heck of a career and we all wish him well."

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