Detroit — There was all kinds of speculation Thursday, in Detroit and Toledo.
Who would replace Victor Martinez as Martinez prepared to head for his Florida home and join his wife for the impending birth of their fourth child?
The easy guess was catcher John Hicks, who is on the Tigers’ 40-man roster and who has been hitting steadily this spring for the Triple-A Mud Hens.
It could also have been JaCoby Jones, given that he, like Hicks, is on the Tigers’ 40-man roster. Runners-up in the Replace V-Mart Sweepstakes were non-40-man players Alex Presley and Efren Navarro.
But it was none of the above.
The Tigers chose instead to go with a pitcher, right-hander Buck Farmer, who will be insurance as the red-hot, and hot-hitting, Rangers arrive at Comerica Park for a weekend series.
The Tigers are still reeling from Tuesday night’s 13-inning, 13-11 loss to the Orioles that wore out manager Brad Ausmus’ pitching staff.
Coupled with Anibal Sanchez’s stressful outings in 2017 and his knack for allowing home runs, the Tigers opted for pitching reinforcements rather than an extra bat as Martinez heads for paternity leave.
Farmer, 26, has had previous turns with the Tigers and has pitched competitively with the Mud Hens. In eight starts, he has a 3.51 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, having allowed 54 hits in 48 2/3 innings, while striking out 47 batters and walking nine.
A fifth-round pick by the Tigers out of Georgia Tech in 2013, Farmer always has been regarded as having a big-league repertoire, with a fastball that can slip into the mid-90s, a good curveball, and a change-up.
But he has been on the bullpen-rotation shuttle over the years and his lack of an enduring role has always been considered by the Tigers as a reason for his so-so stints in Detroit and at Triple A.
He’ll be a long-inning, or short-inning, bullpen backup as the Tigers try to tame the Rangers.
It seems to be evolving, Shane Greene’s potential as a late-innings Tigers blowtorch who can make hitters wince at the thought of rallying against his quiver full of nasty pitches.
The Orioles got a taste of Greene during Thursday’s game, in which the Tigers, thanks in part to Greene’s fury, hung on to win, 6-5, at Comerica Park.
Start with his fastball, which is normally in the 95-97 mph range. Move next to that alleged slider, which hits 90. And finish it off with a curveball that breaks viciously and can vanquish a hitter, as Greene managed in putting away Jonathan Schoop to finish a flawless eighth inning.
There’s one problem. The classification of Greene’s pitches. It’s all wrong, at least as the websites and electronic charts that track a game are concerned.
Greene’s alleged slider is, he explained again after Thursday’s game, actually a cut fastball. And that curveball that Statcast and the monitoring agents consistently identify as being the colloquial Uncle Charlie, is his true slider.
No matter what observers call it, hitters are using other terms these days, none of them affectionate.
Greene isn’t one to overanalyze or get introspective. And he didn’t following Wednesday’s game. But he has now allowed a stingy two runs in his last 18 games (19 1/3 innings). Opponents are batting .188.
“Yeah, when they call my name I’m ready to pitch,” he said as the Tigers headed for an evening at home following Thursday’s escape. “And I’m going to give all I can until they tell me I can’t pitch anymore.”
Ausmus isn’t crimping his outings. Greene went one out shy of two innings Thursday.
And with his shutdown stuff continuing to make late-innings situations less fearful than they were earlier for the Tigers, he won’t be getting an abundance of rest.
Not the way he’s throwing.