DETROIT -- Tigers pitchers entered Saturday night's game against the Royals leading the Majors with 1,258 strikeouts and ranked third in the American League in both ERA (3.68) and WHIP (1.25). Along with some talented arms, another reason for the staff's success is pitching coach Jeff Jones.
While a pitching coach is only as good as the talent around him, Jones' job depends on getting the most out of talent. Part of that includes reading emotions.
"He's done a terrific job, and he's got a good rapport with the pitchers," manager Jim Leyland said. "He knows how to step on them a little bit when he needs to and he knows how to coddle them when they are supposed to be coddled. That's all a part of the coaching profession."
Some pitching coaches are better with mechanics over game plans against hitters or vice versa, Leyland says Jones is strong in both areas. Opposing hitters only have a .376 slugging percentage against, the lowest mark among AL clubs.
Jones has been overseeing a staff that's been on an upward trajectory, and he has been effective with helping starters make in-game adjustments.
"He's very good at picking out flaws," Leyland said. "I know something's not right, but I can't tell where the ball was going, but he normally is right on the money.
"He does a terrific job. He's like a mother hen to them; he protects them. He's a nice buffer between me and the pitchers, which is very important. He's very supportive of me and my decisions. He's really done a whale of a job, to be honest with you."
Tigers announce Minors Player, Pitcher of Year
DETROIT -- The Tigers on Saturday announced that second baseman Devon Travis and left-hander Jose Alvarez were named the organization's Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year.
Travis, who spent the season split between Class A West Michigan and Class A Advanced Lakeland, batted .351 with 16 home runs and 76 RBIs in 132 games. The 22-year-old, who was a 13th-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Florida State, was selected for the Midwest League midseason and postseason All-Star teams.
The Tigers have chosen Travis to be one of their five representatives in the Arizona Fall League and he will begin play with the Mesa Solar Sox on Oct. 8.
Alvarez, who is now in Detroit's bullpen, went 8-6 with 115 strikeouts in 128 2/3 innings over 20 starts with Triple-A Toledo. Among International League starters, Alvarez finished second in WHIP (1.08) and fourth in ERA (2.80).
Bullpen matching up for late-inning success
DETROIT -- The back end of the Tigers' bullpen thrived in its share of pressure situations in Friday night's 6-3 win over the Royals, from Drew Smyly getting a strikeout with a runner on third in the seventh inning to Joaquin Benoit striking out David Lough with the bases loaded in the eighth.
With the addition of Jose Veras before the Trade Deadline, it's added some flexibility in late innings for manager Jim Leyland to match lefty against lefty splits favoring the pitcher.
"That changes things when you don't have to ask a guy to get three outs," Leyland said. "You can ask a guy to get two outs and then bring somebody else in to get one out. People don't realize, unless you have a dominant end of it, you don't realize how important that is."
In the second half, Smyly, Veras and Benoit have inherited 23 runners, allowing only four runs.
"I think they've done pretty good," Leyland said. "I'm pretty happy with them. I think in fact a lot of people probably shortchanged our bullpen a little bit."
Tigers aren't inclined for pitchouts vs. KC
DETROIT -- Justin Verlander and Alex Avila were able to hold the Royals' running game in check in Friday night's 6-3 win through a pickoff and a caught stealing.
Although a pitchout is always an option, manager Jim Leyland sees a better alternative against the Royals, who lead the Majors with 141 stolen bases.
"Normally, if you think about it, the guy doesn't swing at the pitch that he runs on because he's giving him a chance to steal a base," Leyland said. "If you throw a fastball, whether it's a strike or ball, you should have a chance to throw the guy out. So why waste a pitchout if you know the guy is going to take the pitch?"
Leyland said the Royals take more pitches when a runner is attempting to steal a base than other teams. While that doesn't mean pitching out with a runner on first base isn't an option for the Tigers, a pitchout isn't guaranteed to catch the runner either.
"I think we have pitched out a little bit more recently," Leyland said. "We had a guy the other day, we just didn't execute, we dropped the ball. But that's a part of the game, I have no problem with that."
• Right-hander Jeremy Bonderman will be unavailable out of the bullpen on Saturday night and may be sidelined a few more days due to discomfort in his right thumb. Bonderman said he experienced the injury earlier this season and it improved within a few days.
• Shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who is nearing the end of a 50-game suspension, continued fielding balls in left field during early work on the field prior to Saturday's game. During batting practice, Peralta took grounders at shortstop and third base. He will be eligible to return to action on Sept. 27 for the final regular-season series in Miami.
• Before Friday night's win, Justin Verlander was winless in five starts against the Royals this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that five-start winless streak was tied for his second longest stretch against one opponent in his career; the only longer run was six consecutive winless starts against the White Sox from September 2006 to April 2008 (0-3 with 5.68 ERA).
Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.