Upton’s ill-timed jump at fence good for a laugh

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers left fielder Justin Upton jumps to catch a fly out hit by Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano to end the fifth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, June 23, 2016 in Detroit.

Detroit – He didn’t fool anybody on the field, but he may have tricked many of the paying customers and the media watching from the press box.

With runners on first and third in the fifth inning, Robinson Cano sent a long, high fly ball to left field. Justin Upton went back to the fence, jumped and caught the ball. But the way he reacted – he bent over at the waist and looked dispirited – like he didn’t catch the ball.

“No, I was laughing at myself,” Upton said. “Because I jumped early and the ball wasn’t over the fence. All the guys in the bullpen were laughing at me and I was laughing at myself.”

Daniel Norris, the Tigers’ starter, wasn’t necessarily laughing. But he was relieved.

“I saw him catch it,” Norris said. “Really, I was just glad he caught it.”

Upton was drilled in the back on the first pitch he saw from reliever Edwin Diaz the next inning, but he didn’t think it was intentional.

“It was a slider,” he said. “If they wanted to hit me, that guy throws hard enough to do some damage. He just missed his pitch. That wasn’t anything.”

Tigers have ‘different swag,’ sweep Mariners

Salty at first

It’s been a while since Jarrod Saltalamacchia made a start at first base; in fact Thursday was just his second start there since 2007.

But he was up for the challenge.

“Just a chance to get in the lineup is all I care about,” he said. “First base, catcher, DH, I just want a chance to help the team win. And at the same time, give Miggy (Cabrera) a day off and let him do what he does best, hit. And give Vic (Martinez) a day off.”

Saltalamacchia played two innings at first in a blowout loss to Cleveland on April 23, but he’s only played in five games at first base over the last two seasons. He handled all three of his chances Thursday without issue.

Using him at first facilitated three things for Ausmus: Another left-handed bat in the lineup against a young right-handed pitcher (Adrian Sampson), a semi-day off for Cabrera, who was the designated hitter, and the attempt to give a full day off to Martinez, who ended up pinch hitting in the 10th.

“We need to give Victor days (off),” Ausmus said. “He’s not the young player he once was. Historically he’s got knee issues and we just have to give him days off here and there. Also it’s a good way to get Miggy off his feet a little bit.

“Mostly, though, we have to be cautious with Victor.”

Saltalamacchia said he uses a Paul Goldschmidt model first baseman’s glove.

“I hope it works for me,” he said.

Around the horn

…The Tigers announced after the game they had signed their No. 1 draft pitch. MLB.com first reported that high school right-hander Matt Manning (the ninth overall pick) and the Tigers agreed to a full slot value deal of $3,505, 800.

…The four-game sweep over the Mariners was the club’s first since sweeping four from the Royals in September of 2012.

…Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Michael Fulmer, who was pulled after just 4.1 innings Wednesday, was battling dehydration. Fulmer complained that he felt dizzy early in the game and never felt right.

…Right-hander Warwick Saupold (groin) was scheduled to begin his rehab assignment in Toledo Thursday. He will initially work in relief until he builds his pitch count back up.

Twitter @cmccosky