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Benoit available as go-to closer, with limitations

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DETROIT -- On the day that Jose Valverde began working out for the Tigers at their Spring Training complex, manager Jim Leyland reiterated his stance on his bullpen.

"On a lot of the days, if it's doable, I think [Joaquin] Benoit is the most experienced and versatile enough against righties and lefties to pitch the ninth," Leyland said. "But it's not going to be doable every day. You're liable to see anybody at any time ... until something else happens, if it does happen."

There will still be limits on Benoit, whose workload has been watched closely ever since he became a Tiger with a three-year contract before the 2011 season. He's the same pitcher who came back from labrum surgery four years ago.

For one, Leyland said it's "very unlikely" Benoit would close three consecutive days. For another, Leyland said he would like to avoid pitching Benoit in more than one inning, something he did twice last week in Minnesota.

"I feel comfortable closing a game with him anytime," Leyland said. "But you have to be careful. How much can he pitch? How many times a week? How much do you have to watch so that you don't have him blown out? You have to be careful with these pitchers, all of them, to maintain them the way you want to maintain them."

One thing that will make a difference, Leyland said, will be the starters. Only one of them pitched into the sixth inning the first time through the rotation, but Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez both pitched through the seventh inning since then.

"If the starters do what we think they're capable of doing, at some point things will mesh," Leyland said. "And if they don't, then it won't make any difference, because we won't win anyway."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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