Benoit likes set up in Tigers' bullpen

Benoit likes set up in Tigers' bullpen

DETROIT -- Joaquin Benoit said it in Spring Training, and he said it again when the season opened: A bullpen by committee is very difficult to maintain, because it leaves a lot of uncertainty for relievers and how and when to prepare.

The restoration of certainty in the Tigers' bullpen roles meant the removal of Joaquin Benoit from the closer's job. Still, he wasn't complaining about the return of Jose Valverde.

"It makes it easy on me," Benoit said, "and hopefully it makes it easy on everybody else."

With bullpen by committee, a leadoff man on base usually meant two or more relievers in an inning. With role-based relief, Benoit said, it's easier.

Benoit's time as the preferred closer lasted about two weeks, but he only got one save out of it, having finished the 14-inning win in Seattle last Wednesday, when Justin Smoak was thrown out at home plate. In that sense, it isn't much of an adjustment for him at all.

"There was one game to close," he said. "Even when Papa lost two weeks [last year], there wasn't a save opportunity those two weeks."

Manager Jim Leyland gave every indication that with a closer set now, the previous roles will be restored. Thus, Benoit should be back in the eighth-inning setup role he has manned since 2011 and handled twice in the season-opening series at Minnesota for matchups before being slotted more towards the ninth.

With Phil Coke and Darin Downs slotting into more traditional left-handed roles in occasion, and Bruce Rondon and Drew Smyly available for middle relief, Benoit likes the mix.

"When you have a bullpen like that, you can smile," Leyland said.

Jason Beck is a reporter for 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.