Bullpen starts second half with strong showing

Bullpen starts second half with strong showing

CHICAGO -- When asked about his bullpen's recent performance, Tigers manager Jim Leyland offered an understated description that maybe would not have been apt at other points of the season.

"Pretty good," Leyland said.

Detroit's relief corps has long been thought of as the first-place team's weakness, but it was a strong point in the weekend series against the Royals.

Drew Smyly, Bruce Rondon, Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque and Phil Coke combined to throw 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball. None of them walked a batter.

"That's always a common denominator," Leyland said of his bullpen's strike throwing. "But there's a difference between strikes and quality strikes."

Neither Smyly, whom Leyland said would not be available Monday night, nor Benoit has allowed a run in their last five outings. Rondon struck out four in his last three appearances, spanning 3 2/3 perfect innings.

"He's taken baby steps. He's doing fine," Leyland said of the rookie Rondon, who is in his second Major League stint this year. "He's taken some nice steps, but he's a young guy so you're going to get some positive steps and some negative ones every once in a while. But hopefully the positives outweigh the negatives and eventually we'll get over the hump."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.