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Tigers’ Hardy perplexed by opponents’ power surge

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Nick Castellanos of the Detroit Tigers slides safely into home to score on a wild pitch as pitcher Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals covers the plate during the eighth inning Monday night.

Kansas City, Mo. — Sometimes things don’t make any sense in baseball.

Blaine Hardy has never been a home-run pitcher, it’s never been an issue with him. And yet, he’s allowed three in his last six outings.

“I am curious as to what, if any, factors have changed,” said Hardy, who believes his stuff is as crisp as it’s ever been, and the Tigers concur.

To put it in perspective, Hardy faced 544 batters from 2014 through 2016, 126 innings, and allowed five home runs. This season, he’s faced 67 hitters in 15 innings and allowed four.

“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s other factors (like the ball being wound tighter, which is universally accepted as the truth around baseball), if I am tipping my pitches or what.

“If my home-run rate keeps going up and up, I am going to have to look deeper in it.”

Some of them can be explained. He gave up a long home run to Jose Abreu of the White Sox earlier in the season after, Hardy felt, Abreu had peeked and seen the change-up sign. On Friday night, Matt Davidson of the White Sox jumped all over a change-up and lashed it out to left field.

“Truthfully, the last change-up that was hit that hard off me was against these guys — Abreu,” Hardy said. “I remembered that and I kind of had it in the back of my head — like maybe they told him to sit change-up.

“Still, if I throw it perfectly in the middle of the plate like I did, it’s going to get hit, no matter what.”

Hardy said the pitch was center-cut because he slipped on his delivery.

“What really frustrates me about that, I threw strike one, not the best strike one, but, it’s strike one,” he said. “Then I threw my change-up, which is my best pitch to righties. When I landed (on his front foot) I slipped, just a little bit.

“As soon as I slipped I was like, ‘Oh crap.’ I knew it was going to be middle-middle. I didn’t even see him swing the bat. I just heard it and I was like, ‘Yep, that’s gone; give me a ball.’ ”

Overall, his change-up/curve ball combination has been effective, especially when he’s able to spot his fastball effectively.

For now, he will treat the sudden home-run barrage as an anomaly. But he’s wary.

“I am to the point where I might just bring dice out there and roll them on the mound to pick a pitch,” he said.

McCann update

The five-stitch gash on his left hand is not pretty. It’s a multi-colored mess.

But James McCann was at least able to run and throw and do some other baseball-related work on Monday. It’s been five days since the hand was pinched on the nob of his bat by a 94-mph fastball by Astros pitcher Mike Fiers.

And until Monday, doctors told him to keep his blood pressure down in fear the stitches might not hold, so he couldn’t even work out.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating,” McCann said. “The good thing is, once it’s healed there shouldn’t be any limitations. It’s just a wound, so once it heals properly, there should be no aftereffects.”

McCann was hit in the same spot in his last at-bat of spring training.

“That was just one big blood blister,” he said. “Over time it healed, but there was still a fatty patch in there. So, when I got hit there again, the whole fatty patch — for a lack of a better word — exploded.”

Which would make you think the wound could easily be re-opened — especially given that it’s in a spot that is affected when he bats and when he squeezes his catcher’s glove. He said he and the trainers are exploring ways of padding either his hand or the nob of the bat.

“We’re thinking about putting a pad on it and exploring other ideas,” he said. “It’s been hit two times in a month and a half. We’re going to try to use tape to widen the nob of the bat; just something so if it does get hit there we can prevent another bad gash.”

There is no timetable for when even the stitches will come out.

“Just keep an eye on how it’s feeling,” McCann said. “It’s doing pretty well so far. I am doing everything I can to keep it dry and let air get to it — all the things you’re supposed to do.”

Consider Infante?

Manager Brad Ausmus said Monday the Tigers did discuss the possibility of purchasing the contract of Omar Infante from Toledo when Ian Kinsler (hamstring) went on the disabled list over the weekend.

“Yeah, we did,” Ausmus said. “We talked about him, but there was a roster-spot situation.”

The Tigers would have had to release a player off the 40-man roster to add Infante. Tyler Collins was DFA’d and outfielder Alex Presley was put on the 40-man.

Pitcher Williams Cuevas was released when Arcenio Leon was added.

The decision came down to Infante or Presley. The Tigers ultimately decided to add Presley and JaCoby Jones to bolster the outfield and use Andrew Romine and Dixon Machado to fill in for Kinsler.

Around the horn

Miguel Cabrera was three extra-base hits short of 1,000 as he entered play Monday. He will soon become the 39th player in history to produce 1,000 extra-base hits. He would also become the fourth active player to reach 1,000 extra-base hits, joining Albert Pujols (1,221), Adrian Beltre (1,072) and Carlos Beltran (1,051).

… Before the game the Royals put left-handed starter Danny Duffy on the disabled list. He suffered a Grade 1-plus oblique strain during his start in Cleveland Sunday. He will be out six to eight weeks.

Tigers at Royals

First pitch: 8:15 p.m. Tuesday

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1

Scouting report:

Eric Skoglund, Royals: Skoglund is a left-hander called up from Triple-A Omaha to replace the injured Danny Duffy (oblique). He began the season in Double-A and was 2-3 with 4.53 ERA at Omaha. This will be his big-league debut.

Justin Verlander (4-3, 4.87), Tigers: When we saw him last, the Astros were blasting three home runs off him in the third inning, continuing a puzzling streak of poor road starts. In six games away from Comerica Park, Verlander has a 7.64 ERA, a 1.8 WHIP, and opponents are hitting .299 with a .533 slugging and .925 OPS. @cmccosky