By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – After sending starting pitcher Buck Farmer to Triple-A Toledo following his spot start Wednesday, the Detroit Tigers have called up reliever Melvin Mercedes, who has a 4.33 ERA in 41 games for the Mud Hens this season.
“We need another arm,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “The bullpen’s still feeling the effects of that 19-inning game, so we definitely needed another arm.”
Ausmus said he does not know much about Mercedes – only what he observed in spring training.
“He has the ability to throw hard, keeps the ball down in the zone, it’s got a little movement,” Ausmus said. “He’s a very likable guy.”
The Tigers had planned on bringing up another reliever, Jim Johnson, whom Detroit signed after he was released by the Oakland A’s. Johnson recorded atrocious numbers in 38 appearances for Oakland this season, including a 7.14 ERA and 2.058 WHIP, but Johnson’s long-term track record gives Detroit hope he could help the team’s shaky bullpen.
In 2013 and 2012, Johnson recorded more saves than any other pitcher in the American League, and he was an All-Star in 2012. His ERA over those two seasons was 2.72.
Over three appearances for Toledo, Johnson has allowed just one run, which gives him a 2.45 ERA in that short span.
Johnson was scheduled for three outings with Toledo before coming up to play for the Tigers, and he pitched well Wednesday night, but Ausmus said Johnson wanted to make one more appearance at that level before moving back to the big leagues.
“He wanted another outing, which is a good sign because I think he’s got an understanding of the big picture, so we’re going to give him another outing before bringing him up,” Ausmus said, before adding that Johnson’s addition might not be imminent. “I shouldn’t say we’re giving him another outing before we bring him up because maybe he’ll ask for even a fourth outing – or a fifth outing, I guess it would be – but right now Melvin Mercedes is here. He’ll be here until something else changes.”
For a player to ask to remain in the minors is a bit unusual, Ausmus acknowledged, but in a good way.
“Most guys are in a rush to just get back to the major leagues,” Ausmus said, “so I think he’s got the right mindset in terms of being ready to come back and not rushing to come back.”
Ausmus checked up on what Johnson has looked like, and the reports have been encouraging.
“I texted one of our scouts who was there last night, and he said that yesterday was his best outing, he had good velocity and action down in the zone with his fastball, and he got quick outs,” Ausmus said, “so that’s what I know, really.
“If he could return to form, it’d be a huge asset,” Ausmus added. “He can pitch in a number of different roles. He’s been at the back of the pen, obviously, spent a little bit of time in the middle innings. If he can return to form, I think that’d be a tremendous boost.”