Seay sees late-inning role increase

Seay sees late-inning role increase

DETROIT -- Bobby Seay may have come to Detroit in 2006 with the reputation as a situational lefty. But over his four-year career, he has emerged into a more versatile and important component of the Tigers' bullpen.

That fact was on display Friday night when Seay had to replace an injured Joel Zumaya. After a wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out, the southpaw was able to get what he termed as "big outs," striking out Shin-Soo Choo and inducing Travis Hafner to fly out to left to preserve a two-run lead. The Tigers went on to win, 5-1.

"I enjoy getting big outs and being in some tight situations," Seay said. "I knew once [Cleveland] put runners on second and third that a single would tie the game."

Seay has been put in the position of getting more key outs than ever before this year for the Tigers. Entering Sunday's game, the 31-year-old is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 39 appearances. In 27 innings, he has faced right-handers more than one-third of the time, allowing just six hits in 10 1/3 innings. He also leads the American League with 19 holds.

Seay can be called upon by manager Jim Leyland at any point in the game. He has served as both a middle reliever and a primary setup man, as he was Friday night. It doesn't matter to Seay what his role is, and his approach isn't any different no matter the situation.

"My goal is to be as consistent as I possibly can," Seay said. "Whether I come in early or late, or whether I face one batter or [more], I know that I am a big part of this bullpen. I just have to be ready whenever [Leyland] calls me."

Before 2007, Seay had never pitched in more than 21 games in a season. But in the past two years, he has pitched in a combined 118 games for the Tigers, including a career-high 60 in '08. He is on pace this year to shatter that mark, and will likely approach the career-high 56 1/3 innings he threw a year ago.

When the lefty retired Hafner to end the Indians' threat in the eighth on Friday, the appreciative home crowd game him a rousing ovation. That reaction didn't go unnoticed.

"I do feed a lot off the home crowd," Seay said. "As a team, we all feed of it and that has been a key [to our success] this year."

Of all the big outs Seay has recorded this year, retiring Brewers slugger Prince Fielder in mid-June may stand out. But Seay knows there will be many more big outs that he will be called upon to get during the second half of the season. The fact that Tigers starters have been able to record a high number of quality starts this season has been a big reason why Seay still feels fresh.

"Keeping [the bullpen] rested is very important," he said. "The starters have done their job and now I need to keep doing mine."

Pitching matchup
DET: RHP Justin Verlander (9-4, 3.59)
Verlander will start Sunday because of Leyland's decision to give rookie Rick Porcello some extra rest before the All-Star break. Verlander beat Cliff Lee twice in 3-1 and 1-0 games in early May, the latter of which included a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts at Jacobs Field. Verlander also fanned 11 Tuesday in an 8-5 win over Kansas City, and has recorded double-digit strikeouts four times this year. Following Sunday's game, Verlander will fly to St. Louis for his second All-Star appearance. However the righty doesn't expect to get into the game, and if he does, that appearance would be limited because of his start Sunday.

CLE: RHP Tomo Ohka (0-2, 5.65 ERA)
Left-hander Jeremy Sowers had been scheduled to start the series finale, but the left-hander was sent down to Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday, largely because he was allowing opponents to bat over .560 against him the third time through the batting lineup. So the veteran Ohka will get the start in his place. The 33-year-old has 50 career major league victories spanning 10 seasons. He didn't pitch in the Majors in 2008, and has pitched in six games (three starts) with Cleveland this year. Opponents are batting .287 this season against Ohka. He hasn't started since June 27, when he gave up six runs in four innings against Cincinnati.

Tidbits
Josh Anderson hit off a tee Saturday afternoon and felt better after being hit on the tricep by a Lee pitch on Friday night. He anticipated being available as at least a pinch-runner the rest of the weekend but wasn't sure about his ability to swing or throw in a game. "The All-Star break is coming at a perfect time for me," Anderson said with a laugh. ... Fernando Rodney converted his 19th save in as many chances Wednesday in a win against Kansas City. Like all closers, Rodney has had his moments this year when he has allowed runners to reach base, threatening to come back on right-hander in the ninth. But despite that, Rodney's teammates have his back. "I don't worry about him because he's a professional and he gets the job done," said Edwin Jackson on Friday night after Rodney closed out a 5-1 win that gave Jackson his seventh victory of the season. "He makes the big pitches when he has to." Rodney's streak marks the longest during a single season by a Tigers pitcher since Todd Jones converted 19 in a row from June 10-Aug. 30, 2006. Matt Anderson was the last Tigers closer with a longer streak during a single season when he converted 22 consecutive saves in 2001.

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Up next
• Monday-Thursday: All-Star break

Mike Scott is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.