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Tigers' Marte getting close to return from DL

The SportsXchange

Ever so slowly, the Detroit Tigers' fractured bullpen may be getting put back together.

With Luis Marte turning in three scoreless innings Monday in a rehab appearance for Class AAA Toledo, the right-handed reliever could be added to Detroit's active roster before the weekend.

Manager Jim Leyland said the plan was for Marte to throw maybe 40 to 55 pitches, which would mean he'd next be ready to work Friday.

Marte got through his stint with 35 pitches, though, and that would possibly let him work Thursday if he feels fine over the next two days. Detroit is likely to stick with its plan, though, and not bring him up until Friday.

Marte had made the Tigers' Opening Day roster until pulling his left hamstring muscle in his final spring tune-up. He missed more than a month before getting ready to pitch again.

The Tigers liked him because he throws hard, throws strikes, gets outs and can strike hitters out. Al Alburquerque displayed similar characteristics when the Tigers were making their rush to first place in the AL Central a year ago.

Leyland was able to bring Alburquerque in during the middle innings with runners on base and get both strikeouts and scoreless innings. Alburquerque was used anywhere from one out to three innings, and Marte would likely be asked to do the same.

The Tigers aren't too worried about rookie jitters because Marte got some major league time last summer.

The club is also cautiously hopeful Brayan Villarreal can be a force in middle relief, too.

Villarreal was beginning to think his first name was 'Duncan' and his last name was 'Yo-Yo,' as he's been up and down between Detroit and Toledo the past two years. Two outings don't make a career, but those 4 1/3 scoreless innings he's thrown in the past five days have made the Tigers feel that maybe he's starting to settle in.

When Marte returns, Detroit will have to decide whether to option Luke Putkonen to the minors or designate Collin Balester for assignment.

It's possible both things might happen since the Tigers are currently carrying eight relievers. They optioned infielder Danny Worth to Toledo when they brought Villarreal up and can't call him back up until Saturday.

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