Tigers’ Kyle Lobstein thrown to the Twins in memorable major-league debut

Tom Gage
The Detroit News

Minneapolis — It’s a heck of a way to get to the big leagues — not showing up in time for the game’s first pitch, but in time to throw 100 pitches.

Left-hander Kyle Lobstein’s Saturday was busy, to say the least.

But there wasn’t a happy ending for Detroit in the opener of the split doubleheader, the game in which Lobstein pitched. The Tigers lost, 12-4, to the Twins.

But there was a memorable beginning.

On the road with Toledo, the 25-year-old Lobstein was told Friday night he was being promoted to the majors, so he said goodbye to his Triple-A teammates in Indianapolis before their bus left.

On Saturday morning, he was scheduled to catch a plane to Minneapolis. It turned out he caught two planes — one that worked, and one that didn’t.

So there Lobstein was, already napping on the jet that would whisk him to dream-come-true land, the major leagues, and suddenly he had to get off the plane because of a maintenance issue.

Luckily, there was another plane available, but it cost Lobstein more than hour of transit time he didn’t have to spare.

Still, when he landed, he thought it was in time to get dressed for the game and have some down time. Who, after all, has a starting time of 12:10 p.m. on a Saturday?

It turned out that the Twins did, in order to leave plenty of time between games of the split doubleheader.

“That got the nerves going,” Lobstein said.

Instead of arriving with time, therefore, Lobstein and fellow lefty Patrick McCoy showed up — after their taxi got lost — with Saturday’s first game already under way.

“The game was going on, so we got dressed and hustled out to the bullpen,” Lobstein said.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, starter Buck Farmer was en route to not getting out of the second inning.

A relief pitcher, which would be McCoy, was needed to replace Farmer in the Twins’ six-run second. But another pitcher would be needed in the third as the Twins built a 9-1 lead en route to their lopsided victory.

So, it was in the third the bullpen call went out to Lobstein, who’d been 9-11 with a 4.07 ERA at Toledo this season after compiling a better 3.48 ERA in 13 starts there last year.

“He wasn’t here very long before he was in the game,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

What would be the first pitch of Lobstein’s major-league career? A fastball on the corner? Perhaps a first-pitch swinging strike?

Neither one. It was a called-for ball one of an intentional walk to Joe Mauer. After a subsequent sacrifice fly, Lobstein got out of the inning on a groundout, then held the Twins scoreless on two hits the next three innings.

“He kept the ball down,” said Ausmus. “He did a good job.

“We hoped we wouldn’t have to use him, but he did what we thought he could do for us — pitch a lot of innings if we were in a jam.

“It’s not like we were shocked by anything he did.”

In the seventh, however, the Twins loaded the bases on a one-out triple and two walks, only to unload them on Kennys Vargas’ three-run double

That wasn’t the end of Lobstein’s afternoon. He came back out to work a scoreless eighth inning, ending up with a line of 52/3 innings pitched, three runs allowed on four hits and four walks, with three strikeouts.

He threw 100 pitches, the most in a relief stint for any Tiger since Steve Sparks threw 100 in Seattle on July 30, 2003.

“I just tried to go as deep as I could,” Lobstein said. “I felt fresh (because it would have been his turn to start for Toledo).

Thus ended the story of a rookie pitcher’s unusual first game.

On a plane, off a plane.

On time, not on time.

A three-run double after three scoreless innings.

An eventful, but presentable debut.