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Published: Sunday, 7/29/2012

Tigers' needs push Oliver into bullpen

BLADE STAFF

When Andy Oliver returned to the Mud Hens roster from the disabled list Friday, he found that his role has changed.

Oliver has moved from the rotation to the bullpen, as the 24-year-old left-hander made the first relief appearance of his professional career against Columbus that day.

A second-round pick of the Tigers in the 2009 draft, Oliver had made 67 professional starts before Friday's relief appearance, where he gave up four hits and two walks in 1⅓ against the Clippers in his first appearance in more than two weeks.

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Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said the move of Oliver to the bullpen was based in part on Detroit's trade for a fifth starter, Anibal Sanchez, earlier this week.

"We just made a trade for a starter at the big-league level," Nevin said. "We have a pretty solid one-through-five [rotation] there.

"In Andy's position, it's an opportunity to get back up there a little quicker [in the bullpen]. And when you see lefty throwing 96, 97 mph coming out of the bullpen, that's a pretty valuable guy to have."

As a starter for the Mud Hens, Oliver posted a 4-9 record and a 5.18 ERA.

While the lefty ranked among the International League leaders with 90 strikeouts, he also leads the league with 76 walks.

Nevin said this move could be a good one for Oliver's career.

"He can come in and become a 'monster' for an inning or two," Nevin said. "That can get you on the fast track up to the big leagues.

"This could benefit Andy, but it can benefit the organization as well. Any chance you have to bring an arm like that out of the bullpen, it gives you a good chance to succeed."

Nevin said Oliver's role in the bullpen has yet to be determined.

"We'll see how he acclimates to [the bullpen]," Nevin said. "[Friday] we had a need -- we needed innings and we needed outs. We also wanted to get Andy's feet wet in terms of pitching out of the bullpen.

"Down the line, who knows? He could be a seventh- or eighth-inning guy. He could do two- or three-inning stints, but eventually he could be called on to get one or two outs against left-handers."

GUEZ GOES TO DL: The Mud Hens placed OF Ben Guez on the disabled list Friday to make room for Oliver on the roster. Guez suffered a hamstring pull running out a ground ball a day earlier.

"It shouldn't be that long [until he returns]," Nevin said of Guez. "To be honest, we needed to activate Andy and we didn't have enough pitching.

"With the day off [Wednesday] it becomes six days on the DL. He was going to miss a few days anyhow, but hopefully we'll have him back later this week."

It also helps that Andy Dirks will continue his rehab assignment with the Mud Hens over the next few days, giving Toledo another outfield option.

"He's been feeling fine, and his legs haven't been giving him any problems," Nevin said of Dirks. "Trust me, we've seen him run around the outfield a lot the past few days [chasing base hits]."

--John Wagner



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