DETROIT -- The Tigers made a shift in their bullpen Wednesday, though it didn't have anything to do with what unfolded in the game that night. They recalled left-hander Wilfredo Ledezma from Triple-A Toledo and designated for assignment the contract of fellow lefty Bobby Seay.
In exchanging one southpaw for another, the Tigers swapped two pitchers who nonetheless fit different roles and whose seasons were going in opposite directions. While Seay has struggled over the last two weeks in what was expected to be a second lefty reliever's slot, Ledezma reclaimed his once-dimming promise with two solid months as a starter for the Mud Hens.
Manager Jim Leyland partly blamed himself and the Tigers' success for the troubles Seay has faced. He made the club out of Spring Training because Leyland wanted a second lefty to call upon out of the bullpen. However, all but two of his 14 appearances lasted an inning or more, and he faced more right-handed batters than left-handed ones.
Those outings were also few and far between. He pitched in just eight of Detroit's last 41 games, including three times from April 30 to May 24, while Jamie Walker received the bulk of the Tigers' assignments versus left-handed hitters.
Leyland told reporters over the weekend that one of his hopes for the season was to keep Seay in the big leagues all year. It did not work out.
"It's a little unfair to Bobby Seay," said Leyland. "Really, he was kind of the victim of our pitching staff doing so well. He really didn't get to pitch in the ideal spots that I probably should've used him in. But I didn't use him in those spots, obviously, because up to this point we've been getting pretty late into games with leads, so I've basically gone to [Fernando] Rodney, Walker, [Joel] Zumaya and [Todd] Jones.
"I like Bobby Seay. I hope he gets back."
Despite the workload, Seay had put together the building blocks to prove he belonged in the Majors. He threw seven hitless innings in April and headed into Memorial Day weekend with a 2.53 ERA over 10 2/3 innings and four hits allowed.
That's where Seay's season split. He gave up a Jason Michaels grand slam on May 28, against the Indians, with all four runs on his record, and seemingly never recovered. He gave up a run on three hits and three walks in two innings against the Yankees on Memorial Day, surrendered a two-run inning to the Red Sox on June 4, and then yielded a run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning trying to clean up the eight-run eighth-inning bullpen mess last Friday at Toronto.
"After that series against Cleveland, I really didn't pitch well," an emotional Seay said. "I'm really not a guy who can afford to not pitch well at this level. It's just the game. We have such a dynamite bullpen that innings for me were few and far between. Fifteen innings in 2 1/2 months, it's not always easy to be on top of your game, but that's not an excuse. Hopefully I can go down, get some innings and come back here."
That's pretty much what Ledezma did when he was optioned to Toledo midway through Spring Training. The former Rule 5 Draft pick, who lost his rotation spot in Detroit when he was sent out just over a year ago, put together a 4-3 record and 2.52 ERA starting for the Mud Hens. He allowed 60 hits over 71 1/3 innings with 66 strikeouts against 23 walks.
"He's improved a lot," Leyland said. "He's pitched well. I know it's Triple-A, but left-handers have not hit well against him this year and they have in the past. The thing I like about him is if that's the case, he's always been able to use his fastball and changeup and get right-handers out. So if his breaking ball's better and he's getting lefties out, he's coming up because he can do that, plus we think he can get righties out with his fastball and changeup."
How he will adjust to a bullpen role could prove an interesting transition. He hasn't filled that role on an extended basis since 2003. However, he's not exactly filling Seay's old role.
"I can use Ledezma in a lot of different ways," Leyland said. "I think he's a little more versatile. He can come in and give you more innings, throw more pitches."
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