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Benoit's adjustment to closing leads to fewer homers

Benoit's adjustment to closing leads to fewer homers

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Benoit's adjustment to closing leads to fewer homers

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland explained Joaquin Benoit's intelligence and his use of it in the closer's role before Sunday's finale against the White Sox.

"There's the pure-stuff-type closer, and then there's the figure-it-out closer," Leyland said.

Benoit, he said, is a little bit of both. That looks evident in the stats.

A year ago, Benoit led Major League relievers with 14 home runs allowed, more than double his total in any other season in which he has been a full-time reliever. With just under two months to go, Benoit has allowed two home runs in 45 innings.

It would be lowest home-run ratio of his career if he keeps it up. Coupled with that, his .66 ratio of ground balls to fly balls would be the highest of his career.

It wasn't any major correction in mechanics, Benoit said. His best explanation is that it's a product of a change in approach.

"In the role that I'm in right now, they're taking more pitches," Benoit said. "And I'm throwing more fastballs. I'm just trying to throw first-pitch strikes down in the zone and go from there."

That, if anything, is the one major adjustment he has made to closing. In the ninth inning, especially trailing by two or three runs, hitters are more likely to try to work a count and draw a walk than in other situations.

Leyland rested Benoit on Sunday after he pitched the ninth inning the previous couple nights. He has racked up 13 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing 10 hits while walking four and striking out 16.

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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