Oakland, Calif. — The phone call came at 12:30 a.m., at a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.
Larry Parrish, manager at Triple A Toledo, was informing Kyle Ryan that Ryan, a left-handed starter for the Mud Hens, was somehow going to join the Tigers in time for a 12:37 p.m. (PDT) game at O.Co Coliseum in Oakland.
And, by the way, said Parrish: If the pilot steps on the gas, you just might start against the A's.
By the time Ryan got everything in order, it was 2:30 a.m. in Louisville, where the Mud Hens were playing a series. His ride to the airport was to arrive at 4 a.m.
"I figured I might as well not go to sleep," Ryan said after he had pitched three innings of one-run relief, and got the victory, in the Tigers' 3-2 nipping of the A's.
He boarded a 6 a.m. flight in Louisville bound for Chicago. From there he would fly to Oakland and touch down at 11:10, about 90 minutes before Wednesday's first pitch.
It wasn't going to work. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had come to terms that the Tigers' sudden pitching needs, coupled with airlines realities on 12-hour notice, would allow Ryan to work in relief Wednesday.
Another reliever, Alex Wilson, would have time to prepare for a start necessitated when Alfredo Simon was obligated to return immediately to the Dominican Republic to be with his ill father.
Ryan wasn't overly sharp Wednesday, allowing a run on three hits and three walks. But he chewed up three innings on a day when the Tigers needed multiple frames that could at least offer a team a chance to win on a day so taxed.
Ryan's numbers had not been particularly good with the Mud Hens (4.67 ERA in nine starts, 1.39 WHIP) but because of last year's initiation in Detroit and even more because of his strong sinking fastball, he got the call. A very late call, as it turned out.
"There's been times that I've pitched the same as last year," said Ryan, who was 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his 2014 stint with the Tigers. "There've been times when I've not been as successful.
"Mostly, it's been leaving balls up, or you don't get the curveball around. More mental issues than anything."
He had no serious issues Wednesday, except, perhaps, for that lack of sleep: three hours of slumber on his flight to California was all he brought to the ballpark Wednesday.
But he and his team left with a victory. Some tough nights, and days, can very much be worth it.
Wilson made Wednesday's start and was superb: no hits, a walk, with a minimum nine batters faced in three innings, thanks to his first-inning pickoff of Josh Reddick at first.
Wilson was urged by Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones to follow his normal routine. He did, with such discipline he raced in from the bullpen to make his first start since he was in the minor leagues in 2012.
"I kind of had an idea I'd be the eligible candidate," said Wilson, who found Wednesday's experience to be, more than anything, "fun."
Wilson noted that he threw only 43 pitches in his three innings.
"I think I threw more pitches in two earlier relief outings," he said. "Absolutely it was fun. I had a good time."
Wilson enjoyed Wednesday no more than his team has savored having a consistently sturdy right-handed reliever who has been able to pitch single or multiple innings, all to the tune of a 1.99 ERA and .171 opposing batting average, spanning 13 game and 222/3 innings.
Dixon Machado gained the most important milestone Wednesday a rookie can claim.
He got his first big league hit, a line single to left field in the sixth. Umpires called time, as they do at these moments, and made sure the ball was thrown on a bounce toward the Tigers dugout for safekeeping, and for a future place in Machado's archives.
"I was waiting for that," Machado said afterward, flashing a wide smile.
He started at shortstop Wednesday as Jose Iglesias missed a fourth consecutive game over his bruised knee. Machado might have outdone his single when he teamed with Ian Kinsler on a splendid double play in the fourth.
With a man on first and one out, Stephen Vogt ripped a hard grounder to the right of the second-base bag. Kinsler gloved it with a backhand snare, then flipped a relay to Machado, who bare-handed the ball and fired to first to get Vogt.
"It was a hard play for him," said Machado, who was more impressed with Kinsler and with his relay than with his own deft work. "But that throw was right there for me."
Machado is aware his time with the Tigers could be about to expire. The Tigers will need to drop a player on Thursday when starting pitcher Buck Farmer is added to the roster.
And with Iglesias healing and feeling stronger each day, the Tigers are expected to return Machado, 23, to Triple A Toledo for further seasoning.
Justin Verlander is scheduled to make his first rehab start Sunday for Triple A Toledo in a game at Indianapolis.
Alex Avila was scheduled for a doctor's appointment Wednesday. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Avila could resume "baseball activities" in a matter of a few days.
On deck: Angels
Series: Four games, Thursday night-Sunday, Angels Stadium, Anaheim, Calif.
First pitch: 10:05 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 8:05 p.m. Sunday
TV/radio: FSD Thursday-Saturday, ESPN on Sunday/97.1
Series probables: Thursday — RHP Buck Farmer (0-0) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (2-3, 3.36); Friday — RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-5, 6.12) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (3-3, 2.47); Saturday — RHP Shane Greene (4-3, 4.27) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (3-4, 4.06); Sunday — LHP David Price (4-1, 2.97) vs. RHP Matt Shoemaker (3-4, 5.44)
■Farmer: Has all the pitches, with zest on his fastball and breaking pitches. Pitched last season for the Tigers and was putting away Triple A hitters with relative ease. But this is big league ball, and hitters are unforgiving.
■Wilson: Having a nice season at age 34. Doesn't have quite the firepower he had during his peak days with the Rangers, but throws more strikes than he had been doing the past two seasons. Quality starting pitcher.