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Subtle change in philosophy resonates with Tigers starting pitchers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers starting pitcher Mike Fiers


Detroit — Manager Ron Gardenhire chose his words carefully.

You get that a lot around here when a question or topic even remotely touches on former pitching coach Chris Bosio, who was fired on June 27.

But there has been a clear delineation, pre-Bosio and post-Bosio, on how much deeper into games Tigers starting pitchers are working. In the 12 starts before Bosio was fired, starters had gone six innings only once.

In the last 11 starts after he was fired, starters have gone at least six innings 10 times.

Gardenhire was quick to point out the pitching coach change was partially, but no solely, responsible for that.

“I think our pitchers have all gone through ups and downs throughout the season and right now I think they all have it figured out,” he said. “Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) has made a few changes, but I think Boz set the tone early.

“He established good programs and good mindsets and I think we are feeding off that right now.”

More: Victor Martinez paying it forward to young Tigers hitters

Anderson, though, has made one fundamental change in how the pitchers approach hitters. While Bosio was a proponent of his pitchers working quickly and being aggressive early in at-bats, he encouraged pitchers to work on the fringes of the strike zone to induce weak contact.

Anderson has changed that.

“It’s a little different theory on throwing pitches out of the strike zone trying to get outs, as opposed to pitching in the strike zone and getting quicker outs,” Gardenhire said. “I think that is one thing Andy has brought – pound the strike zone and get people out quicker so you can get deeper in the game with your pitch counts.

“Boz talked a lot about getting soft outs outside the strike zone and making people chase out of the zone.”

So far, so good.

“I’ve been with Andy a long time and it’s always been about strike one, a quality strike one,” Gardenhire said. “Pound the zone and put pressure on the hitters, and a lot of these guys are doing it. They are buying in to it.

“But the tone was set here. The other guy (Bosio) did a really nice job setting the tone – being aggressive, have a plan in place before you start and try to stick to it. But I have a lot of trust in Andy and I always have. I expect these guys to do well under him.”

Center fielder JaCoby Jones of the Detroit Tigers reaches over the fence to catch a ball hit by Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers during the sixth inning Saturday.

Believe in yourself

JaCoby Jones was not the least bit surprised he was able to get back to the wall, time his jump perfectly, reach over the wall and bring back what would have been a home-run ball hit by Adrian Beltre on Saturday.

“Not at all,” he said. “I knew I was getting close to the wall and I knew I was going to have to jump and in my mind I knew I was going to make the catch. I didn’t know it was going to be over the fence like that, but I had a good jump on it, and as I got close I knew I would be able to catch it.”

Jones practices making catches over the wall during batting practice. If the hitters aren’t hitting them out there, he’ll have outfield coach Dave Clark or quality control coach Joe Vavra hit fungos.

“You always dream of doing something like that as a kid,” Jones said. “But we work on it. I feel like you can’t make that play unless you practice it.”

Jones has had his struggles with the bat, but he said emphatically, he never second-guesses himself in the field.

“I feel like I can make every play,” he said. “In my mind, I feel like I am the best defensive player out there. That’s how I always think.”

Told that former Tiger outfielder and Fox Sports Detroit analyst Craig Monroe has said he is going to win Gold Gloves soon in his career, Jones smiled and shrugged.

“Anytime somebody says something like that, it’s great,” he said. “But I think I’m a Gold Glove winner every single day I show up on the field.”

Lesson learned

Jones, though, did get scolded a bit by Gardenhire for not running hard on two plays Saturday – both times had an out been recorded it would have cost the Tigers a run.

It was Jones’ liner that was dropped in the first inning that allowed three runs to score. Jones was nearly thrown out at second before the third run crossed the plate. Then he jogged home on a hit by Mikie Mahtook, and Mahtook was barely safe at second before Jones crossed the plate.

“I just have to run harder than I was running,” Jones said. “I ran out of the box, but I was trotting because I knew I hit it right at him. I figured he was going to catch it. When he dropped it, I turned it on. And on Mikie’s ball, I really thought that was in the gap.

“I wasn’t really jogging, but obviously I can run faster. I can’t cost our team a run.”


The Tigers scratched Nick Castellanos before the game Sunday because of mild soreness in his left wrist. He had been in the lineup as the designated hitter. Castellanos had played in 88 of the Tigers 91 games. He hadn’t missed a game since May 9.

... The Tigers will activate right-handed pitcher Drew VerHagen off the disabled list (broken nose) before the game in Tampa Monday. Right-hander Artie Lewicki was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo. 

... Infielder Dixon Machado, designated for assignment by the Tigers on July 4, has cleared waivers and agreed to be reassigned to Triple-A Toledo. It was the second time Machado had been DFA'd by the Tigers, so he had the option of not accepting the return to Toledo. 

… When the Tigers board their plane for Tampa Sunday night, catcher James McCann will be wearing a beaver suit. Yes, the Arkansas product lost his College World Series bet with Oregon State alumnus Matthew Boyd. “Terrible,” McCann said, when asked how it looked on him. “Who looks good in a beaver costume?”

Twitter @cmccosky


Series: Three-game series at Tropicana Field

First pitch: Monday-Tuesday – 7:10 p.m.; Wednesday – 12:10 p.m.

TV/radio: Monday-Tuesday -- FSD, 97.1; Wednesday -- FSD, MLB, 97.1

Probables: Monday – RHP Chris Archer (3-4, 4.24) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (3-5, 4.03); Tuesday – TBA vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (4-7, 4.58); Wednesday – TBA vs. Jordan Zimmermann (4-0, 3.51).

Archer, Rays: This will be his first start since going on the disabled list with an abdomen injury on June 5. He pitched well against the Tigers at Comerica Park on May 1, allowing two runs and striking out six in six innings.

Liriano, Tigers: He’s battled command issues since coming back from the hamstring injury. In his last three starts he’s walked 12 (and struck out 12) in 16 innings. He’s allowed three runs in each of those starts.