Kansas City, Mo. – When manager Ron Gardenhire got to the clubhouse Sunday morning, he was notified that right fielder Nick Castellanos was the latest victim of a flu bug that has ravaged the Tigers clubhouse the last week or longer.
“He’s in there right now on a couch sound asleep, covered up in a dark room,” Gardenhire said. “He’s feeling pretty bad. He may wake up and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ but being dehydrated is not the best way to go out in the sun and try to play baseball.”
Castellanos has been adamant since the start of spring training that he wanted to play all 162 games this season. And, alas, the goal can still be attained.
Gardenhire sent Castellanos up to pinch-hit for Jose Iglesias with two outs and a man on in the bottom of the ninth against Royals closer Kelvin Herrera. Tough duty – with or without the flu. But Castellanos just missed tying the game.
He launched a ball to the wall in center field that Abraham Almonte went back and caught.
The second thing Gardenhire found out Sunday morning was that his third baseman, Jeimer Candelario, was also unavailable. He had jammed his left thumb during batting practice two days ago and it got so painful during his four at-bats Saturday that he had difficulty gripping the bat.
“He’s going to need a day or so,” Gardenhire said. “Maybe just a day. I know he wants to play.”
Niko Goodrum got the start at third base.
So the only two players who had started every game this season were out of the lineup. In addition, starting catcher James McCann, who had started six games in a row, was given a rest day Sunday – meaning rookie Grayson Greiner would make his first big-league start.
“This kid came up here for a reason,” Gardenhire said. “I look forward to seeing him catch. His Major-League debut – this is as good as it gets.”
Iglesias was back in the lineup, even though he's fighting both the flu and an ankle he rolled in the game Thursday. Gardenhire said he’s taking treatment on the ankle daily.
Pitchers Matthew Boyd, Jordan Zimmermann and Warwick Saupold have also fought through the flu.
“I don’t know what happens,” Gardenhire said of the clubhouse virus. “It’s been happening. It happened at home with guys pitching with it – Zimm pitched with it. When you are in a clubhouse like this and around each other all the time, this stuff happens.”
Asked how he’s avoided the bug so far, he said, “I don’t kiss anybody. I stay away from them.”
It was somewhat amazing that center fielder Leonys Martin was back in the starting lineup after being struck in the forehead by fly ball in right-center field in the ninth inning Saturday.
“He’s fine,” Gardenhire said.
He was asked if Martin had taken any concussion tests.
“I don’t think a concussion test would tell you anything on him,” Gardenhire said, laughing. “That guy is nuts. He came in today wearing a Mr. Clean outfit, all white. If you’ve got the courage to wear that, I don’t need to check your concussion.”
Seriously, Martin was checked out by the Tigers medical staff and cleared. He didn’t have as much as a welt on his forehead.
Managing a good-humored, free spirit like Martin reminds Gardenhire of when he managed a young Carlos Gomez with the Twins in 2008 and 2009. Both were fun-loving and hard-playing, both were beloved in the clubhouse and both could make the manager shake his head in wonder.
Gardenhire told a great story about Gomez.
“He was at bat and the third baseman was playing in,” Gardenhire recalled. “Gomez would square to bunt, pull the bat back and then bunt. We would try to break it down for him:
“‘The third baseman was already in and you fake like you are going to bunt and bring him in two more steps. Then you pull the bat back and he stays right there and you bunt? You already pulled him in two more steps. Why would you do that?’”
Gardenhire said he never did get a satisfactory answer.
“I loved him and I was sad when we traded him,” Gardenhire said. “He was a lot of fun and he was game-on. He played hard every day.”
Bad timing for Castellanos to have to miss a start. He’s been on fire at the plate. After his two doubles and a triple Saturday, his sixth three-hit game this season, he’s hitting .373 with five doubles, three home runs and 15 RBIs in his last 14 games.
… McCann, too, has been hot. After hitting .147 in his first nine games of the season, he’s been on a .349 tear with three doubles and three home runs in his last 16.
… Victor Martinez notched his 500th RBI as a Tiger on Saturday. He is one of three switch-hitters in Tigers history to achieve that milestone. The others are Billy Rogell (532) and Tony Clark (514).
…Iglesias did something he hadn’t done since April 7, something he’d only done three times all season. He walked. In the fifth inning, against Jakob Junis, he walked for the first time in 94 plate appearances. “And if they keep throwing me strikes, I won’t walk again for another 300,” Iglesias said. “I don’t go up there to walk. That’s a bad mindset.”