Tigers gaining confidence in reliever Putkonen

Tigers gaining confidence in reliever Putkonen

DETROIT -- Lost between the dissection of Justin Verlander's fastballs and the efficiency of Jose Valverde's latest splitters, Luke Putkonen provided one of the biggest innings of Wednesday's win in Cleveland. In the process, he demonstrated a growing confidence that he belongs in the big leagues.

It was something pitching coach Jeff Jones was glad to see.

"It looks to me right now like he's starting to believe that he's a big league pitcher," Jones said Thursday. "He's pitching like he wants to stay. Jim [Leyland] thinks he's a big league pitcher, and so do I."

Putkonen has been in the big leagues a few times already, only to return to Triple-A Toledo eventually each time. While Tigers officials raved about the stuff, the execution was inconsistent.

In big outings, Putkonen has been steadier this year. He only had one inning Wednesday, but he made it look easy, spotting 96-mph fastballs while dropping a handful of curveballs, four of them for strikes.

"A big key for him, just like anybody else, is to be able to get your breaking ball over, and he's been doing that this year," Jones said. "It makes a big difference."

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.