DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland saw more prominent left-handed hitters coming up on the schedule and few opportunities to get his own left-handed slugger into games. So on Tuesday, he made the decision to go with an eight-man bullpen for a while.
By recalling sidearming southpaw Clay Rapada from Triple-A Toledo and optioning utility man Jeff Larish back to the Mud Hens, the Tigers decided they have more use for the extra arm than the extra bat for now. It probably won't end up as a long-term move, but with key series against the Indians, Twins and White Sox looming over the next 2 1/2 weeks, it'll probably stick until at least mid-May.
"I think those are the types of things you do," Leyland said Tuesday afternoon. "You try to be a little creative, and you see what makes sense. To me, it makes sense."
Rapada was among the final cuts out of Spring Training, and Leyland admitted when Detroit sent him to Toledo that he had a case to make the team. Rapada had shown better control as camp went on and had worked on better movement, which is what the Tigers wanted to see from him, but Detroit chose to go with Eddie Bonine and Nate Robertson as potential long men, with Robertson also working with Bobby Seay against left-handed hitters.
So far, the efficient success of Tigers starters has meant little use for long relief. Detroit starters have lasted at least six innings in nine of their past 13 outings through Tuesday, and they haven't been exited before the end of the fifth since the White Sox knocked out Zach Miner in 3 1/3 innings on April 13. Bonine went down to Toledo last weekend to make room for Joel Zumaya, who came off the disabled list.
"If we can continue to get innings from our starters, that's a real good thing," Leyland said.
The flip side, though, is that the lineups the Tigers have faced lately have placed extra emphasis on lefty-righty matchups, especially against the Angels and Yankees. Rapada will complement primary lefty reliever Seay, who pitched effectively for three straight days before being rested on Tuesday.
Rapada allowed four runs on 10 hits in six innings at Toledo with four walks and seven strikeouts. Left-handed hitters went 4-for-9 against him, but he struck out four. He hadn't been used as a lefty specialist at Toledo, because the bullpen needed his innings. He has also been trying to work inside and out to hitters instead of simply living on the outside corner.
Larish's 18 plate appearances, meanwhile, were fewer than he was expected to get when he opened the season on the roster. But with Carlos Guillen and his sore right Achilles tendon limited to designated-hitter duties for the past several days and with Josh Anderson emerging as a solid hitter, opportunities have been limited.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.