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.
Ausmus checks review, says call was correct
BALTIMORE -- Brad Ausmus has not been ejected from a game as Tigers manager. Monday was about as close as he has come.
He looked heated as he argued with James Hoye over the interference call that led to an inning-ending double play in the seventh inning of what was then a 2-1 game. It wasn't until Ausmus saw the replay that he realized his hitter, Nick Castellanos, was indeed over the plate when O's catcher Steve Clevenger tried to throw.
The way the rule is worded, that's all the umpire needs to make the call.
"Nick stepped across the plate," Ausmus said. "And if you step across the plate, you're getting into the catcher's way. That's clearly the line the catcher takes to throw the ball. It just looked awkward from the side because [Clevenger] kind of double pumped. It almost looked like he tried to go into Nick, but I couldn't tell that Nick had crossed over."
The rule is 7.09(d), and it has come into play three times in Tigers games already this season, including the game-ending double play on April 24 against the White Sox with Jose Abreu at the plate and Adam Dunn on deck.
Included under the terms of batter interference, the rule reads, is "any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate."
Porcello feels fine day after early exit
BALTIMORE -- The left-side tightness that led Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to pull Rick Porcello after six innings and just 83 pitches Monday night is not expected to be a concern ahead of Porcello's next start on Saturday at Boston. Porcello said he did some easy throwing Tuesday without any restriction.
"It felt fine," Porcello said.
Porcello could not remember any particular play that brought on the injury. He mentioned the injury to Ausmus in the middle innings, and Ausmus made the decision to pull him as a precaution.
"He fought me on it," Ausmus said. "He wanted to go back out, and he could have in terms of pitch count. But I just thought the safe thing to do would be to get him out of there right now before something bad happens. If he had gone back out there and really injured himself, I would have trouble sleeping."
The Tigers already have one starter working his way back from injury in Anibal Sanchez, who went on the 15-day DL 2 1/2 weeks ago with a ruptured blister on his right middle finger. He felt fine Tuesday after his Monday simulated game, and he's now penciled in as the starter for Sunday night's nationally televised series finale against the Red Sox.
Porcello improved to 6-1 with six innings of one-run ball Monday.