Arlington, Texas — Blaine Hardy was informed that he will make a start Sunday against the Mariners at Comerica Park.
And then he went out Wednesday and threw for the second straight day — 25 pitches in two significant-at-the-time scoreless innings.
“This sets him up for his start,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And it was two really good innings that we needed.”
Hardy said it was almost like a side day for a starting pitcher — a more intense bullpen session. It was intense, for sure.
He relieved starter Francisco Liriano with two on and nobody out in a 3-3 game in the fifth inning. Hardy, who got a key strike out late Tuesday night, was clutch again. He got Nomar Mazara — who would later hit massive home runs to tie and win the game — to bounce into a 4-6-3 double-play in two pitches.
Then, after an intentional walk to Adrian Beltre and an unintentional one to Joey Gallo, Hardy got Jurickson Profar to fly out to right field on a 3-2 pitch. He followed that up with a clean sixth inning, posting two strikeouts in the process.
“I am glad they got me two more innings today,” said Hardy. “It’s been some time since I started. I was hoping not to just have my two previous outings — 20 pitches in Kansas City and five (Tuesday). Today was a good step to make sure I can have some longevity on Sunday.”
Hardy was starting in Toledo and leading the International League with an 0.74 ERA, a 0.62 WHIP and a .136 opponent batting average. Gardenhire said he hopes Hardy can give him 60-65 pitches.
Hardy is shooting for 100.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s all relative to how I start the game. But if I’m cruising, I am going to fight to stay in the game.”
These are not happy days for Tigers lefty Daniel Stumpf. Including the game-tying home run he allowed to Mazara Wednesday, he’s been tagged for four runs and six hits in 1.2 innings.
“He’s got good stuff,” Gardenhire said. “Right now, he’s just in a funk. I think he’s driving himself crazy a little bit, overthinking situations rather than trusting himself.”
The Tigers have been after him to use his 93-94 mph fastball more often to get lefties off his slider. Lefties were 3-for-20 against him until this road trip. He’s given up four hits in six at-bats to lefties since.
Including Mazara’s blast, which left his bat with an exit velocity of 117 mph and came off a fastball.
“We’ve talked to him about using all his pitches,” Gardenhire said. “But you’ve got to make pitches, too, in these situations. That was a one-on-one battle, a great battle and today they got him.
“He’s got to make a better pitch than that.”
Big play Jones
JaCoby Jones got two singles Wednesday and scored once, and his sliding catch in the fourth inning may have altered the course of the game early on.
The Tigers were down 3-2 in the fourth inning and Liriano, grinding mightily, hit both
Jurickson Profar and Renato Nunez in back-to-back at-bats to start the inning.
Ryan Rua hit a sinking line drive to left-center. According to Statcast, there was an 85 percent chance that ball would be a hit. Jones got a quick jump and made a sliding catch going to his right.
He got up quickly and threw a seed to second base to double off Profar. A potential big inning was quickly thwarted.
Gas up the cart
Alex Wilson (ruptured plantar fasciitis) is hopeful he can return after his 10-day DL stint expires. And he knows it will be dependent on his pain threshold, which is probably as high as anybody’s on the team not named Miguel Cabrera.
“I'm already putting weight on it and stuff,” Wilson said. “Having said that, I've kind of talked to a few people that have done this before, and they say realistically it's 2-3 weeks. One hundred percent back to normal would be a month, a lot of the time.
“Because I'm not a smaller guy, there's a lot more stress on my foot, and the way I pitch is not going to be easy on my foot either. The biggest thing is not to rush back and tweak something else, flare it up again where I have to be back in a boot. But we'll see.”
Would Wilson consider using the bullpen cart to save some wear and tear?
“I made a joke about that with (assistant general manager) David Chadd,” Wilson said. “Depends on how fast I come back, I might not be doing a whole lot of running, so that cart might get used after all.
“Al Avila’s eyes kind of lit up a little bit. I would prefer not to, but if it lets me get out there a little bit earlier and takes a little stress off of it, I have no problem riding the cart in.”