Reliever Jim Johnson asks for another outing in Toledo
Detroit — The presumption was that veteran reliever Jim Johnson was going to be summoned from Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday night, replacing Buck Farmer on the Tigers’ 25-man roster.
And the Tigers were prepared to do just that, except for one thing.
“At Jim’s request, he wanted another outing (in Toledo),” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It’s a good sign because he understands the big picture.”
The big picture is this: The Tigers want Johnson to hit the ground running, prepared to play a key bullpen role, when he does come up.
“Most guys are in a rush to get back to the major leagues, but he has the right mindset,” Ausmus said. “He wants to be ready to come back, not rushing to come back.”
Johnson, who signed with the Tigers last week after being released by the A’s on Aug. 1, has pitched three straight scoreless innings in Toledo, including two crisp and clean innings Wednesday.
“I texted one of our scouts who was at the game,” Ausmus said. “He said yesterday was his best outing. He had good velocity and action down in the zone with his fastball and he got quick outs.”
While Johnson makes at least one more appearance for Toledo, the Tigers called up right-hander Melvin Mercedes to replace Farmer. But make no mistake, the Tigers are anxious to get Johnson in the fold.
“If he could return to form, he’d be a huge asset,” Ausmus said. “He can pitch in a lot of different roles; at the back of the pen for sure, but he’s also spent time in the middle innings.”
Johnson saved a combined 101 games the last two seasons as the Orioles’ closer but floundered after signing with the A’s this past offseason.
Don’t look now, but rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos is hot again at the plate. In the last six games, covering four starts, he’s hitting .438 with a double, triple, two home runs and five runs batted in.
His slugging percentage over that span is 1.000 and his OPS is 1.471.
“He went through a lull maybe back in May but he’s been having good at-bats for us,” Ausmus said. “He’s not a big walk guy, but he has a knack for putting the bat on the ball and he gives us a chance to move runners or score runners. He’s done that very well.”
After collecting a triple, home run and two RBIs Wednesday, Castellanos got two more hits — including a clutch, two-out, two-run single in the eighth — on Thursday.
“I have always told myself that I belong up here,” Castellanos said. “But I am still finding my way. Just because I had some recent success doesn’t mean I’ve arrived. It’s a process and it takes years of at-bats and games to realize who you are as a player up here.”
Into the fire?
Ausmus said the situation definitely gave him pause. Before the Tigers scored three runs in the eighth Thursday to blow the game open, they were facing the likelihood of bringing closer Joe Nathan into a 2-0 game.
After Nathan incurred the wrath of the home fans Wednesday, first by walking two batters, then making a chin-flick gesture to the crowd as he walked off, Ausmus debated whether it might be better to let the hostilities cool off for another day.
“It certainly crossed my mind,” he said. “But you still have to make decisions based on trying to win the game. It was bound to happen at some point anyway. He’s going to have to come into a game at some point, and sometimes it’s better to get it out of the way quickly.”
The Tigers’ three-run eighth inning made it a moot point, as first Phil Coke, then Joba Chamberlain closed out the win.
Around the horn
…The Pirates did not let Victor Martinez play Wednesday. He walked in his first at-bat, then was intentionally walked in both the sixth and eighth innings. His 20 intentional passes lead Major League baseball.
…With 14 strikeouts, Max Scherzer now has 196 on the season, four shy of his third straight 200-strikeout season.
…Game times have been changed for two games at Comerica Park to accommodate national television. The game against the Giants on Sept. 7 has been moved to 8:07 p.m., and the game against the Royals on Sept. 8 will start at 4:08 p.m.
Mariners at Tigers
Series:Three games at Comerica Park, Detroit
First pitch:7:08 Friday-Saturday, 1:08 p.m. Sunday
TV/radio:FSD/97.1 Friday-Saturday; FSD, TBS/97.1 Sunday
Probables: Friday —LHP James Paxton (2-0, 2.38) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (13-7, 3.11);
Saturday— RHP Felix Hernandez (13-3, 1.95) vs. LHP David Price (11-8, 3.21);
Sunday— RHP Chris Young (10-6, 3.27) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (1-2, 5.31)
Paxton, Mariners:Has made eight major-league starts without a loss, four last year, four this year. But he’s winless in two starts since returning from disabled list (strained lat).
Porcello, Tigers:Has lost two in a row, including the defeat in relief on Sunday in Toronto. But in his last nine starts, he’s 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA.