Port Charlotte, Fla. — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire was screaming so loud in the dugout during the Tigers’ 10-5 spring loss Sunday, Rays third base coach Matt Quatraro turned around to see who was being yelled at.
“He thought I was yelling at him,” Gardenhire said. “I was yelling, ‘Isn’t anybody going to back-up third base?’ ”
The Tigers played a sloppy baseball game. They made three physical errors (two by second baseman Dixon Machado), but it was the mental errors that had the manager steamed — particularly those made by experienced pitchers Alex Wilson and Warwick Saupold.
“They are supposed to get outs,” Gardenhire said. “But I’ll be damned if we’re not going to back up bases like we’re supposed to. That was unacceptable.”
Wilson didn’t survive the fifth inning, giving up four runs (one earned) and six hits. Saupold gave up four hits and two runs in the seventh. These were two of the club’s workhorses out of the bullpen last year, and are expected to be again this year.
Both, to Gardenhire’s chagrin, stood on the mound in frustration after yielding hits instead of backing up either third base or the plate.
“They are going to give up hits,” said Gardenhire, who acknowledged the field was sun-baked and fast. “But we didn’t back up bases. They stood on the mound not backing up bases and that’s not acceptable. The rest of it is going to happen. But when we see them do those other things, then I get irritated.
“That’s what I am irritated about more than anything else. Not the pitching. But standing on the mound on a base hit when you’re supposed to be getting to a spot and backing up. They were standing there. Just watching. It’s not acceptable. I’m a little (ticked) off.”
That kind of attention to detail has been emphasized daily and from Day 1 by Gardenhire and his staff. It’s not that it’s been a problem throughout the camp, but clearly, Gardenhire wasn’t about let it become one.
“We’ve been pretty good at backing up bases and all of that, but today was not good,” he said. “Not acceptable. It’s something they’re taught from the ground up. You can’t get frustrated and stand on the mound and watch the ball. We’ll address that. Believe me, we will address it.
“Normally my meetings are really happy meetings. The meeting in the morning may not be a happy one.”
Granted, the infield was hard and fast, and Gardenhire allowed for that. But he still talked to Machado afterward about making the sure play and not a Superman play.
The Rays’ four-run fifth was set up when Machado booted a double-play ground ball at the second-base bag.
“It took a funny hop and he was screened a little bit by the umpire,” Gardenhire said. “But as we talked about, you’ve got to catch it first, and then go make a play. The worst thing that can happen then is you just get one out and no double-play.”
Machado seemed to be trying to catch the ball and step on second base in one motion. The ball caromed off his knee.
“He was trying to be Superman instead of just trying to catch it,” Gardenhire said. “If you have a chance at second, fine. If not, get the out at first.”
The strangest play in the inning, though, was catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s attempted back-pick at second base against the Rays’ Carlos Gomez. Shortstop Jose Iglesias was not covering the bag, so Saltalamacchia adjusted his throw at the last second and the ball went into center field.
Gomez scored on the play.
The Tigers didn’t do much against Rays ace Chris Archer (two hits over 5 1/3 innings). His fastball velocity was back up to 95-96 mph, and his slider seemed in regular-season form.
But once he left, the Tigers started to hit. They scored four times in the six innings. John Hicks drilled a two-run double into the corner in left and Niko Goodrum, in the hunt for a utility spot, hoisted a two-run home run to right field.
Saltalamacchia doubled and scored in the seventh.