DETROIT -- Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque isn't back to his old self yet following his offseason elbow surgery. But even at less than 100 percent, he's been a valuable piece out of the bullpen.
Since being called up at the beginning of September, he's made five appearances, and through 9 1/3 innings, he hasn't allowed a run. In fact, he's yielded only three hits while striking out 12.
Alburquerque has also been able to pitch in big spots for the Tigers, including Sunday night's game against the Twins, when he faced a bases-loaded situation. Although one inherited runner scored due to an error, the 26-year-old got out of the jam with Twins catcher Joe Mauer on deck.
In total, Alburquerque provided 2 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the Tigers in the game, although they eventually lost, 2-1, in 10 innings.
"He did terrific, there's no question about in," manager Jim Leyland said.
Despite it being a chilly 56-degree night in Detroit, Alburquerque said it was the quickest he's warmed up this year. Usually it's a lengthy routine to stretch out his arm in the bullpen, but he said he was encouraged with how it felt in a shorter time.
Still, through the final nine games of the season, Leyland said Alburquerque won't be used at the same rate if he were healthy.
"The thing with Alburquerque is for the rest of the season and Spring Training, [you can't] overuse him," Leyland said. "Let him continue to get back where you can settle in and where you're not worried about him getting hurt."