Kansas City, Mo. — When he was pulled out of the game in Toledo Friday night, Casey McGehee was suspicious. Something had to be up. Either he was getting released or going to back to the show.
“I wasn’t sure what to make of it,” he said.
The news was good. The Tigers, who had sent right-handed pitcher Buck Farmer back to Toledo after the game Friday night, purchased McGehee’s contract and got him a plane ticket to Kansas City.
The emotions were still flowing when he spoke to the media before the game Saturday.
“I’ve been through pretty much every level of this game that you can imagine, short of being a superstar or all-star,” he said. “I’ve had really good years and really crappy years. I’ve had OK years. I’ve been sent down and released. I went to Japan and came back.
“All those experiences kind of led to this moment. I’ve done this long enough to know two things — your next day is never guaranteed and it’s serious business. This is not the time to sit back and enjoy the ride. This is the best you’re going to get.”
The Tigers have been carrying one extra pitcher on the roster most of this month. McGehee is a corner infielder, primarily a third baseman — which at first blush seems like a roster redundancy. The Tigers don’t see it that way.
“With some of the minor injuries we’ve had with Vic (Martinez, right knee) and Cam (Maybin, quad), we needed that fourth position player back,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “If we think we need to give Vic a day for his knee, McGehee can DH, or he could play first and let Miggy (Cabrera) get off his feet and DH for a day.
“It gives us some flexibility.”
Ausmus said the club didn’t need to call up another outfielder. He said utility players Andrew Romine and Mike Aviles have demonstrated they can fill-in more than adequately behind starters Justin Upton, Maybin and Steven Moya.
Mostly, though, McGehee is here because of his hot right-handed bat. He was hitting .323 at Toledo with a .440 slugging percentage and.810 OPS. He hit four home runs, 17 doubles and knocked in 17 runs.
“Whatever Brad asks me to do, I’ll be ready to do it,” said McGehee, who has seven season of big-league experience. “The best part is, they are right in the thick of the division (race). It makes it that much more exciting to come to a team that has some real aspirations.”
All but 22 games of his major league time was spent in the National League. So he’s familiar and comfortable with coming off the bench. He has a .260 lifetime average as a pinch-hitter.
“I just prepare the best I can for whatever I have to do that day,” he said. “And be ready at a moment’s notice. At the end of the day, it’s the big leagues and it’s about performance and doing you’re your job.”
McGehee didn’t have to re-sign with the Tigers after they released him in spring training. But he’s glad that he did.
“When I decided to re-sign, they were up front about there being no guarantees or anything like that,” he said. “At the same time, if there was an opportunity I wanted to pursue they wouldn’t hold me back from it. And I really appreciated them extending that courtesy to me.”
He wound up having fun playing for Lloyd McClendon and the Mud Hens. And he was playing well, offensively and defensively.
“There were days I got frustrated, but that could be said for anybody,” he said. “But I never really got to a crossroads where I was really considering what I was going to do.”
So Friday night, seven years after he did it the first time, McGehee got to call his father and tell him he was going to the big leagues.
“I was thinking about that on the plane,” he said. “It’s definitely different this time. Still exciting, obviously. Some of the unknown isn’t there quite as much as it was the first time. It’s brought back a lot of good memories when I was able to call my dad and tell him I was coming up here.”
To make room for McGehee on the 40-man roster, the Tigers designated outfielder Wynton Bernard for assignment. Bernard, who had been demoted to Double A Erie, was hitting .209.