Cleveland — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire still laughs about it, but he thinks he might be the only manager in baseball history to have been victimized by a ground-rule triple.
“Steve Liddle (bench coach) and I still talk about that,” Gardenhire said, chuckling. “Every time we see the umpire — he’s a good umpire and a good guy — we say, ‘Hey, Ground Rule Triple, how’re you doing?”
The story came up in Chicago on Sunday after the ground-rule double rule cost the Tigers a run in the seventh inning Saturday. Nick Castellanos ripped a shot to left field, down the line, and Jeimer Candelario was rounding third and would’ve scored easily from first base had the ball not bounded over the fence.
There was discussion this winter about giving umpires the discretion to award a run in that situation, when it’s obvious the run would’ve scored. But the rule was left alone — runners get two bases on a ground-rule double.
“I hope they don’t start doing that with a ground-rule double,” Gardenhire said. “He might’ve scored there, he would’ve scored. But that’s baseball. When you start putting too much on an umpire to make that kind of call, that’s getting over the top.”
So about that ground-rule triple. It happened in 2010 at Comerica Park when Gardenhire was managing the Twins.
As Gardenhire told the story, a Tigers’ hitter drove the ball down the left-field line. The ball hopped the screen, caromed off a fan and came back onto the field.
“The umpire didn’t see it,” Gardenhire said. “He thought it hit off the screen and bounced back.”
The runner got to third base and Gardenhire was furious.
“I walked all the way down the left-field line and pointed to the guy who the ball hit,” Gardenhire said. “I said, ‘It was him, right there.’ (The umpire) said, ‘Your outfielder didn’t make a play on it so we called it a ground-rule triple — the guy that hit the ball would’ve got to third.’”
Gardenhire paused for a beat, then looked up.
“I got thrown out,” he said, and paused again.
This isn’t what Gardenhire wants, at all. It’s never been his intention to dry dock rookie Victor Reyes. But for one at-bat on April 1 and a pinch-running stint on Saturday, Reyes has been chained to the Tigers bench through the first eight games.
And Gardenhire thought it might be a tad cruel to send him out there on Monday against Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in a chilly night in Cleveland.
“I’m not afraid of it,” Gardenhire said. “I think he would go in and do battle just like everybody else. But we’ve got guys with a little more experience against this guy.”
Gardenhire said Reyes and JaCoby Jones would both see action this series.
“Everybody is going to get to play,” he said. “We’ve got four night games here and I said all along, we’re going to play these guys.”
Reyes, the 23-year-old Rule 5 draftee, is showing remarkable patience. He understands his position on the team.
“I just continue to put my work in, whether it’s been in the cage or in the outfield doing my defensive work or doing my conditioning program,” he said through Tigers interpreter Bryan Loor-Almonte. “I just come in every day prepared to work because I don’t know when I am going to get a chance to play.
“I just want to be sure I’m ready when I am called on.”
Most of his swings have come in the cages off pitching machines. With the constant cold weather in Chicago and here Monday, the Tigers haven’t been able to take batting practice on the field.
“I’d prefer to take it on the field, but it’s the same thing,” Reyes said. “It’s no problem.”
Reyes is from Venezuela and spent most of his minor-league career playing in warm-weather venues.
“But I played one year in Kane County,” he said.
Yes he did. Kane County, Geneva, Ill., Midwest League, 2015. And he did quite well. He hit .311 that season (Low-A), including hitting .304 in the cold month of April.
“It was cold,” he said with a smile. “But not this cold.”
It was subtle and you weren’t sure if it was made just because John Hicks was subbing Sunday for starting catcher James McCann, but Gardenhire made a slight alteration to his batting order.
He flipped his Nos. 6 and 7 hitters, moving left fielder Mikie Mahtook up to the No. 6 hole and dropping the catcher back to No. 7. He kept it that way on Monday with McCann back, too.
“Just mixing it up and trying something different,” he said. “We’re going to move people around with different matchups and things like that. I don’t have no problem with what’s been going on. It’s early in the season and guys are playing every day and that’s OK.
“But we’re going to mix people around and change things up throughout the year.”
Around the horn
The Tigers have played three 1-0 games already this season, winning one and losing two. According to STATS, LLC, The Tigers are the first team to play three 1-0 games in the first eight of a season since 1943 when the Reds and Cardinals did it.
Tigers at Indians
First pitch: 6:10 p.m. Tuesday, Progressive Field, Cleveland
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
RHP Josh Tomlin (0-1, 24.00), Indians: He was ambushed by a very good-hitting Angels team in his first start (allowing a career-high eight runs in three innings). He was 1-0 against the Tigers last year, allowing five runs in 10.1 innings.
LHP Matthew Boyd (0-1, 1.50), Tigers: He allowed a run and four hits against the Royals last Tuesday, taking a tough 1-0 loss. His slider was nasty on that day. He threw 27 of them and only one was hit safely. He pitched well against the Indians last season (1-2, 2.28 ERA) in four starts.