Detroit – What if the Detroit Tigers provide a bullpen cart to bring relief pitchers into the game and nobody uses it?
That appears to be the situation. The Tigers announced that beginning Friday, a bullpen cart will be available and they are waiting for paying sponsors to decorate it with their corporate logos or slogans.
“From our bullpen – nobody is going to use it,” said right-hander Warwick Saupold. “They asked us and everybody said no. Especially in this weather, that’s our warm-up, running in from the bullpen.”
The larger issue, at least to the Tigers relievers, is where the cart will be parked. It’s going to sit in the Tigers bullpen, directly behind the two home plates. It further squeezes an already cramped area.
“That thing is going to get drilled,” right-hander Drew VerHagen said. “(Daniel) Stumpf will definitely drill it a few times.”
Stumpf said he once threw a warm-up pitch into the camera well behind the left-field foul pole.
“I’m not opposed to having a bullpen cart, even though I am not going to use it,” Stumpf said. “I just think they really have to find a better place to park it. I mean, when you have two guys throwing down there, balls could be ricocheting all over the place.”
There is no telling how or where the balls, thrown at 90-plus mph, will carom off the cart. Not only are the bullpen catchers in harm’s way, so are the fans seated in the left-field corner.
“It’s going to be a problem,” Saupold said. “It’s going to ricochet off the cart and you don’t know where it’s going to go. It could hit some fan in the head. I think it’s a bad idea.”
Saupold understands the concept – bring in sponsorship money while bringing back a popular, old-time staple.
“It’s a great idea, but for us on the field, it’s not going to work,” he said. “Where it’s parked, it’s dangerous. Where it’s sitting, balls will ricochet off, take bad hops and hit someone in the face.”
The Comerica Park grounds staff must have heeded the players’ warning. Before the game, the carts – one in each bullpen – were moved from behind the plates to behind the bullpen mounds.
Stumpf maybe had the best idea – especially for a day as cold as Friday.
“I think we should light it on fire and then drive it out there with flames shooting out,” he said. “At least it will keep us warm.”
When Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire was a rookie with the Mets in 1981, he quickly befriended veteran Rusty Staub, who died on Thursday.
“We had a good relationship,” Gardenhire said before the game Friday. “He became an announcer (after his playing days) and we saw each other quite a bit. We had a running hearts game on airplanes and stuff. He taught me the game.”
Gardenhire was a bench player on those Mets teams and got a lot of playing time as a pinch-runner for Staub.
“I got my bonuses based on appearances,” Gardenhire said. “So he helped me a lot. He took care of me as a kid. … It was a very sad day.”
The Tigers paid tribute to Staub with a pre-game memorial on Friday. He played for the Tigers from 1976 (acquired in a trade for Mickey Lolich) to 1979.
Gardenhire said left-hander Daniel Norris will remain with the team and take his turn in the rotation April 3 against Kansas City. He was originally scheduled to fly back to Lakeland and make an interim start against minor-leaguers.
… Right-hander Mike Fiers is going back to Lakeland after the Opening Day ceremonies. He’s on the disabled list with lumbar strain. He is scheduled to pitch on April 2. Gardenhire said they are trying to build him back up to 75 pitches.
… Tigers utility man Niko Goodrum, who after eight minor-league seasons made his first Opening Day roster, will wear jersey No. 28 – J.D. Martinez’s old number.