Every club can benefit from having a pitcher like Tallet, who is capable of eating up innings and saving his manager from unnecessarily using multiple relievers in a game that has gotten out of hand. Long relief is also a familiar role for Tallet, considering it has been his primary job in his five seasons with the Blue Jays.
This season was supposed to be different, though.
A year ago, Tallet made 25 starts for Toronto, filling in admirably while a handful of pitchers recovered from injuries. Given his showing last season, the Blue Jays (65-60) offered the lanky left-hander a spot in the starting rotation out of Spring Training this year and felt his veteran experience was important.
Three starts in, a left forearm issue ended Tallet's stay on the starting staff.
"It's been a tough road ever since the injury," Tallet said.
Tallet has been fighting through mechanical problems and arm soreness since returning from the disabled list in the beginning of June. He might have benefited from more rehabilitation, but the Blue Jays had parted ways with struggling starter Dana Eveland and Tallet wanted badly to aid Toronto's staff.
"My arm was feeling pretty good," Tallet said. "I said, 'Let's go. Let's move this up, because I want to go help the team.' I was feeling pretty good. It wasn't perfect. It wasn't great, but it wasn't horrible. It was just good enough where I could go out there and I could battle."
After a pair of poor starts, the Blue Jays moved Tallet back to the bullpen.
The results since then have not been pretty. In 19 appearances out of the 'pen, Tallet has posted a 6.69 ERA and allowed 26 runs on 35 hits over 35 innings. Along the way, the southpaw has issued 22 walks, compiled 21 strikeouts and surrendered 10 home runs (tied for the most among American League relievers).
That unfortunate trend continued on Tuesday against the Yankees (78-58), who launched five home runs combined against Rzepczynski and Tallet in a 17-hit outpouring. Rzepczynski (1-2), who allowed six runs in three innings, surrendered three blasts in the third. Tallet then gave up shots to Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter in a four-run fifth for New York.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was quick to defend Tallet.
"He's in a tough role out there," Gaston said. "He's a guy that I save back sometimes to pitch, when I hear something about one of my pitchers maybe not feeling well, or has a problem. ... You have to hold him back sometimes -- it hasn't been fair to him.
"He's been a great trouper on the club. He's never said a word. He just goes out there and takes the ball. I know there are times where he tells me he can go another inning or two, and I'll just say, 'No, that's enough.' He's been a great guy on the club for that."
Tallet takes pride in that aspect of his job, too.
"Any time there's been a situation where the starter has struggled," Tallet said, "I've just told [Gaston], 'Hey, don't waste any more guys down there. Just let me keep going.' It's better to save two guys for a different game if the game is out of hand."
That was the case on Tuesday, when Rzepczynski simply did not have much going against the Yankees. Complicating matters was the fact that Toronto's lineup managed only two runs in six innings against New York's Dustin Moseley. The Jays added three runs off reliever Chad Gaudin in the seventh, but it was too little, too late.
"It was one of those days," Rzepczynski said. "You make mistakes against this team, leave balls in the middle, they're going to go a long way."
That has been Tallet's main issue this season.
"The biggest thing for me has been giving up the homer," said Tallet, who has surrendered 17 long balls in 62 1/3 innings this season. "God, I've given up a lot, and it's pretty frustrating."
Tallet admitted that he has been pitching with some left shoulder soreness throughout this season. The pitcher said it is the result of having altered his arm angle after returning from the stint on the disabled list. Tallet has raised and lowered his arm angle a few times, trying to ease the lingering discomfort.
"He's had to go through a lot of different things," Gaston said.
Maybe so, but Tallet was not about to blame an injury for his poor performance.
"These guys down there in the bullpen with me," Tallet said, "their arms are sore just like mine. So I'm not ever going to use that as an excuse."
That said, Tallet's frustration over his season is obvious.
"It hasn't been good," Tallet said. "I love pitching and playing baseball so much. It's been such a difficult year to go out there and struggle the way I have."