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Ever diplomatic, Benoit all business as closer

Ever diplomatic, Benoit all business as closer

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Ever diplomatic, Benoit all business as closer

TORONTO -- Joaquin Benoit has never campaigned for the Tigers' closer job. Even when he said time and again that a team needed a set closer, he never said it should be him. That's not his style.

Even now, two weeks into his role as Tigers closer, it's not entirely clear it's a job he craves so much as the job he has earned. Yet on the field, he's not doing anything to discourage the current notion that he can close, a theory that the Tigers were finally led into testing out.

"I really just wanted to be a part of the [pitching] lineup," Benoit said of his younger aspirations. "I didn't pick a role. I mean, I was a starter at the beginning of my career, a middle reliever, then a setup man, and now I'm a closer. Who knows what's coming next?"

When asked if he's happy being a closer, Benoit cracked a smile.

"I'm not complaining about it," he said.

It's cruel irony that his ascension to the closer's job upon Jose Valverde's exit coincided with the sudden downturn of the Tigers' rotation. Benoit went from oft-used setup man to a closer in need of work. After 12 appearances in April and 11 in May, he pitched in just nine games in June, and just three over the final two weeks of the month.

That makes it easy to stay fresh health-wise, but tougher to stay polished pitching-wise. It also makes it tricky for the Tigers to develop a sense of trust in their closer.

With the July 31 Trade Deadline now four weeks away, they don't have much time to build it. How team officials see Benoit in late July will have a major impact on their trade talks.

If the Tigers decide they need to acquire a closer, they don't have nearly as many choices on the market as they do with setup men. The closers who could be traded won't be cheap to acquire, either, partly out of supply-and-demand, but partly out of talent.

That's not Benoit's department. He isn't really into plugging his role, for that matter. All he's doing is pitching. When asked about the adrenaline of closing, he shrugged.

"I mean, I haven't felt any changes," he said. "I'm waiting for that one."

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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