DETROIT -- Slowly but surely, the Tigers bullpen is starting to take shape from the closer on down. And Brandon Lyon, the would-be closer who became a man without a role when the season began, is starting to fall into place behind Joel Zumaya.
A day after Dontrelle Willis pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers, manager Jim Leyland was still emphasizing the importance of the outs that came after Willis left. Lyon followed Willis and struck out Marlon Byrd before Bobby Seay ended the seventh inning with a popout to third from David Murphy.
If Leyland can line up his pitchers the way he wants, Lyon and Seay will see a fair number of those situations.
"My dream would be to use [Lyon] in the seventh inning with the lead against right-handed hitters," Leyland said, "and Bobby Seay with the lead against left-handed hitters, and to use [Joel] Zumaya as a setup man on a consistent basis in the eighth and [Fernando] Rodney in the ninth. That would be my dream."
If Seay and Lyon are on, it makes for a quality late-inning group. Leyland believes Lyon is getting there.
Statistically, Lyon was making a resurgence after his rough start until he gave up five runs in last Wednesday's 13-inning loss at Minnesota. All five runs, however, came in Lyon's third inning during a game in which he was the Tigers' last available reliever.
Take away that decisive 13th inning and Lyon would have 4 1/3 innings of three-hit, one-run ball in May.
"I think Brandon Lyon's really coming on," Leyland said.
He thinks much the same of Zumaya, who still hasn't issued a walk since rejoining the team late last month. Leyland said Zumaya's perfect eighth inning Tuesday was one of the best nights he's seen from Zumaya since 2006, because he approached hitters with a plan.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.