BALTIMORE -- Just two Tigers relievers pitched four consecutive days in eight seasons under Jim Leyland. Al Alburquerque became the first to do so under Brad Ausmus.
Ausmus didn't want to do it. The way his bullpen was shaping up Monday night, he didn't feel like he had a whole lot of choice.
"We were in a little bit of a quandary in the bullpen," Ausmus said.
The way Alburquerque has been pitching lately, however, it wasn't a bad option.
With Joba Chamberlain and Evan Reed both unavailable, Alburquerque was the one guy Ausmus felt could pitch and trusted could do so effectively in the eighth inning in a hold situation to hand the lead to Joe Nathan. Nathan needed to pitch, having not done so in a few days.
Unless Alburquerque retired the middle of the O's lineup in order in the eighth, Nathan was going to get his shot at a four-out save -- and Nathan had pitched more than an inning only once in each of the past three seasons. Alburquerque made sure he didn't have to, getting a popout from Manny Machado before striking out Adam Jones and Chris Davis swinging at sliders.
Alburquerque needed just 14 pitches to mow down the middle of the Baltimore lineup. He has thrown 15 pitches or less in each of the last four days, two of them covering full innings.
"He's looked good recently," Ausmus said. "I think he's really made an effort to use his fastball more. I think as a result, he's really gotten out front with the delivery of his pitches, and it's actually improved his slider. He seems to get out in front of his slider a little more, more out front and down. It makes it tougher on hitters when the ball starts out in the strike zone and breaks out."
Alburquerque has no problem with daily use. Nathan pitched four days in a row twice last year in Texas, including the final week of the regular season.
"It's good. It's early in the year," Alburquerque said.