CHICAGO -- Darin Downs enjoyed a relaxing Monday back home in Florida, hitting the links for a round of golf and then taking his daughter to the pool. Then the Tigers called.
Suffice to say, he was surprised.
"Wouldn't you be?" Downs said.
For all intents and purposes, Downs' season ended at Triple-A Toledo a week ago. Though he has been on the Tigers' 40-man roster all year, he wasn't called up when rosters expanded on Sept. 1, nor when the Mud Hens' season ended. The only lefty reliever the Tigers recalled was Jose Alvarez, who was a starter for the vast majority of the season.
Thus, Downs went into "offseason mode," as he put it.
A week later, however, the Tigers changed course and decided they could use another lefty ahead of a meeting with the Mariners on the upcoming homestand.
It's a rare move for any team this far into September, let alone the Tigers. Detroit has done it once or twice over the last couple years, but mainly in the situation of injury reinforcements. Craig Monroe was called up in mid-September in 2002 after Bobby Higginson was lost for the season. Clay Rapada rejoined Detroit's bullpen in 2009.
This wasn't that kind of move.
"They just thought it might be good to have another lefty," manager Jim Leyland said.
That said, the Tigers have had their struggles finding big outs against left-handed hitters from the lefties they have. Phil Coke gave up an insurance run on an RBI single from Alex Gordon last Saturday in Kansas City, ending a streak of three appearances retiring left-handed batters since his September return. Left-handed hitters are 9-for-27 against Drew Smyly since the All-Star break.
"We're trying to get Smyly in some meaningful situations, but we haven't had a lot of those lately," Leyland said. "He's pitching a lot, so it's kind of worked out well for us."
Downs spent most of the season's first half in Detroit before going on the 15-day disabled list with rotator cuff tendinitis. He spent two weeks on a rehab assignment before being optioned to Toledo on Aug. 4.
Downs put up a finishing stretch to warrant consideration as a September callup, allowing one earned run on seven hits over 13 1/3 innings since Aug. 1. He had a weird split in Toledo, proving far stingier against right-handed hitters (.121 average) than lefties (.238), but the at-bat totals were limited. He didn't allow a home run from either side.
"He did just OK," Leyland said of reports from Toledo.
That was likely one reason behind the original decision not to bring him back. The effort to get Coke going again down the stretch was likely another.
Downs went a week without throwing after his last appearance in Toledo until he played catch Monday night following the call. He had a more formal throwing session on Tuesday to get ready. He still expects some rust, but not for long.
"You don't throw for a week and you go out there and you're spinning stuff, your arm feels good, but it's not quite there," Downs said. "It's like timing when a hitter gets two, three, four days off."
Leyland proud of Pirates turning the corner
CHICAGO -- The Pirates' 82nd win of the season on Monday night earned them their first winning season since Jim Leyland was their manager back in 1992. Few outside of Pittsburgh might have been much happier for them.
"That was my first Major League job. I live there. That's my home," Leyland said. "Obviously, they've shown pretty good patience. It's a great story for the city. It's a great story for the franchise, which is a very historic and a very great franchise.
"I couldn't be happier for them. I'll call [manager] Clint [Hurdle] at some point, talk to him."
Leyland: Responsibility for signs falls on us
CHICAGO -- Jim Leyland had his own problems Monday night, so he didn't have time to see the highlights of the back-and-forth between Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Orioles skipper Buck Showalter. He looked it up online Tuesday morning.
"I guess that got pretty ugly," Leyland said. "It's that time of year for umpires, managers, coaches, players."
It came a couple weeks after Leyland quietly suggested on his pregame radio segment that the A's might have been getting signs when they came to Detroit, sometimes without a runner on second base. He didn't go into that situation again specifically on Tuesday, but he referenced some suspicions he's had in some situations over the course of the season.
"I have strong views on that," Leyland said. "I think if a man at second base gets the signs and relays it to the hitter, I think shame on us. I think if the third-base coach can steal signs from the catcher, shame on us. If they're doing it by some way of electronic camera equipment or something, shame on them. If we can't come up with a set of signs that's good enough for them not to get it at second base, shame on us.
"We've been suspicious a couple times, and the guys who were pitching have the most sophisticated signs. They would be tougher than the first part of the SAT test. And we've been suspicious a couple times. If somebody gets those, that's pretty good."