The Tigers continued their roster shuffling after Monday's loss in Minnesota, calling up RHP Luke Putkonen from Toledo and sending LHP Duane Below to the Mud Hens.
Below is 2-1 with a 3.88 ERA in 27 games for Detroit this season. But the lefty from nearby Britton, Mich., has pitched for the Tigers just six times since June 27, and his numbers reflect a lack of activity: Below, who had a 2.70 ERA at the end of July, posted a 6.00 ERA last month and gave up four earned runs in four innings pitched this month.
One other reason Below likely was demoted: The health questions surrounding RHPs Joaquin Benoit and Brayan Villarreal in recent days make it important Detroit has a full staff available.
The question I am getting from Tigers fans is this: Why did Detroit summon Luke Putkonen instead of Bruce Rondon?
Well, there are two practical answers for that:
- Putkonen is on the Tigers' 40-man roster, and Rondon is not. If Detroit had called up Rondon, the Tigers would have been forced to remove someone from the 40-man roster to make room for him.
- Rondon, if you remember, is serving a five-game suspension from the International League for throwing behind Durham's Will Rhymes on Saturday. I believe he is ineligible to pitch until Friday.
Putkonen also has been pitching better recently. In July the right-hander had a 6.32 ERA, and opponents were batting .394 against him. But this month Putkonen has allowed just five hits in 8.1 scoreless innings, with a .172 opponent's batting average.
Putkonen is 2-2 with a 4.68 ERA in 22 games for the Mud Hens. He also has pitched for Detroit this season, going 0-2 with an 8.59 ERA in six appearances for the Tigers.
UPDATE -- Aug. 15
If you look at the comments below this post, Phil asked a couple of questions that I thought were very interesting. I asked the International League Office to answer them ... and learned a few things I did not know.
Does an IL suspension carry over to other levels of baseball? I thought the answer was "yes," but according to the IL the answer is "yes and no." If a player moves to a different level of the minor leagues, the suspension will follow him as each minor league has an agreement to honor suspensions from other leagues.
For the sake of example, let's say Rondon was sent to Double-A Erie. The Eastern League would honor the suspension.
However, major-league teams are under no obligation to honor the suspension. The IL Office stressed that it is rare for a major-league team to promote a suspended player, but it has happened. So I stand corrected on that.
Does a major-league suspension carry over to the minor leagues? According to the IL Office, this is a "very gray" area.
The drug program has rules in place that determine what suspended players can and cannot do, basically allowing them a short time to "rehab" at the minor-league level just before the suspension at the major-league level ends. If memory serves, Manny Ramirez was allowed to play in minor-league games while he was suspended at the major-league level in preparation for the time his suspension ended.
In terms of other issues, it was explained to me as a "case-by-case" situation.
In short, it would NOT be correct simply to say that a player suspended at the big-league level would not be permitted to play in the minors during the suspension, because it can happen.
So I stand corrected on that as well.
Thanks to Phil for asking the questions, and thanks to the IL for the answers!