Baltimore – He actually did dare to dream about this day.
Growing up in Perth, in Western Australia, Warwick Saupold began playing t-ball at age 4. He changed athletic clubs at age 8 because the club he was with told him he was too young to play Pee Wee ball.
There was no real Australian professional baseball leagues then, at least not like there are now.
Yet, he still had big dreams.
“Always as a kid, I wanted to play at the highest level,” he said. “That became a reality today. I feel very privileged to be here. I can’t wait to get out there and try to help the team.”
Still, when the call came Thursday night, as he was driving back to his place in Toledo after a dinner with fellow Mud Hens pitcher Jeff Ferrell, he thought he was being pranked.
“It was a call from Pittsburgh,” he said. “I thought that was kind of weird. But it was Lloyd McClendon (Mud Hens manager). I thought he was joking, or somebody was playing a prank. But he said he wouldn’t joke about that. He said I was going to the big leagues.
“My legs were shaking. I was shocked and speechless.”
The Tigers purchased the contract of Saupold, a right-handed pitcher, from Triple A Toledo Friday and sent lefty Daniel Norris back to the Mud Hens.
“We needed a fresh arm,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Jim Leyland’s talked about him for a couple of years. He really likes him. And I talked to (Toledo manager) Lloyd McClendon and he said he thought Saupold could help us. We will find out.”
The 26-year-old has pitched extremely well for the Mud Hens. In eight appearances, four of them starts, he’s 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA in 30⅓ innings. Opponents are hitting just .181 against him and his WHIP is below 1.0 (0.89).
He was also part of the team’s multiple-pitcher no-hitter earlier this year.
He’s a soft-tosser, his fastball in the upper 80s, but he has shown deft command of four pitches (fastball, cutter, change-up, curveball).
“I think I’ve figured out just to stay within myself and do what I can do,” he said. “And that’s throw strikes and change speeds and stuff like that. That’s all I am here to try and do. The main goal is to try to help the Tigers win.”
Saupold has been in the Tigers organization since 2012 — signed by the bench coach of his club team in Australia, Tigers scout Kevin Hooker — and pitched for Australia in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He plans to pitch for them again in the next WBC, for which Australia has already qualified.
“We are still trying to grow the game there,” he said. “It was a big deal for us to qualify for the WBC and now Peter Moylan (Royals pitcher) got called up the other day and I got called up today. That will help.”
Saupold is the second pitcher from Australia to play for the Tigers.
“Brad Thomas, right?” Saupold said.
The Tigers were a man short on the 40-man roster, so no corresponding move was required. They are now at the full 40.