Detroit – Who knew baseball limbo could be so exciting?
Right-handed pitcher Zach McAllister certainly didn’t. When he was designated for assignment by the Indians, the team he debuted with in 2011 and pitched parts of eight seasons for, he thought maybe his career had gone irretrievably off the rails.
He cleared waivers and was released on Aug. 7. Three days later, after being courted by several teams, he signed a Major-League contract with the Tigers.
“For me, it was an interesting process,” said McAllister, who is 30. “It’s something I’d never been a part of. I’d been traded before, but getting DFA’d and being in that limbo is an uncomfortable feeling. But to know there were other teams out there that wanted me, it was a feel-good moment after getting let go.”
The Tigers went after McAllister hard, and their aggressive pursuit won him over.
“I was excited,” he said. “Talking to the front office here and (assistant general manager) David Chadd and getting a feeling for what they want to do and how they want to use me, it was definitely something I was excited about.
“They said, ‘We think you can help here.' You will get an opportunity to pitch a lot and that’s what you want. That’s what you ask for, to get an opportunity and try to take advantage of it.”
What the Tigers pursued, as much as anything else, is the 96-mph octane McAllister has in his right arm.
“We are looking for arms and arm strength in this organization,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s definitely got that. This is a good signing. He’s really excited to be here. This is a good thing.”
McAllister, who got off to a rough start, was 1-2 with a 4.97 ERA with the Indians. In his last nine appearances, he’s allowed two runs (10 hits) in 9.1 innings.
“I was happy with how I was throwing before I was DFA’d,” McAllister said. “I had a rough start to the season and that put me in a hole as far as numbers. If you just look at the numbers, it looks worse than it really was, in my mind.
“I feel like I am trending in the right direction. I realize how much work I need to do to be successful. But I am happy with the way it’s trending.”
McAllister will be a free agent in the offseason, so the Tigers, as much as they are bolstering their bullpen, they are giving him a chance to re-establish his market value.
“I kind of knew the end was coming at some point in time,” he said of his dismissal from Cleveland. “It just happened to come a lot sooner than I might’ve expected it to. But I can’t say enough good things about the Indians, what they did for me and the opportunities they gave me.”
Losing 17 wins in the standings wasn’t as tough for McAllister as saying so-long to his teammates.
“So many of us came up together,” he said. “We were part a losing team and we were part of a winning team. When you go through all those things with a group of guys, you build a bond that’s a little stronger than most.
“So, yeah, saying goodby was tough.”
Gardenhire said McAllister will work out of the bullpen, most likely in middle and long relief.
“That will play itself out,” McAllister said. “Whenever my name is called, it doesn’t matter the situation, just be ready to put up zeros.”
To make room for McAllister, the Tigers designated for assignment right-hander Jacob Turner.
For most, the chance to put their nickname on the back of their game jersey for Players’ Weekend (Aug. 24-27) is fun, goofy fun.
Michael Fulmer will have “The Plumber” on the back of his jersey. JaCoby Jones will be “Juicy J” for the weekend. Buck Farmer will be “George,” which is his legal first name.
But for Niko Goodrum, the nickname jersey is a chance to honor a long-time friendship. Goodrum will have “J.J. Mumford” on the back of his jersey in honor of Jerrett and Jaylen Mumford, who along with a third young man, were killed in a car crash on Sept. 26, 2016.
Jerrett was 18, Jaylen 16, and the third casualty, Ibrahim Sankoh, was 18. They were coming back after celebrating homecoming in College Park, Ga.
“They both played baseball,” Goodrum said. “I’ve known them since they were babies. Just my way of honoring them.”
Goodrum has given the family his game jerseys from every stop in his career – the Twins, Venezuela (winter ball), the Tigers, and he will give them the J.J. Mumford jersey, as well.
“I always think of them when I play,” he said.
With Turner gone, and Fulmer still on the disabled list, right-hander Artie Lewicki is now in the starting rotation. He will likely start Monday against the White Sox.
… The Tigers hit .176, with a .223 on-base percentage and slugged just .241 on the recently-completed six-game West Coast trip – losing all six games. They managed just eight runs total, the fewest over a six-game stretch since September 2005. They struck out 51 times in 211 plate appearances.
Twins at Tigers
First pitch: 6:10 p.m., Saturday
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
RHP Kyle Gibson (5-9, 3.60), Twins: He had the misfortune of facing the Indians twice in the span of seven days (seven runs in 11 innings, two losses). He’s had a solid season. His velocity on his four-seam and two-seam fastball has ticked up to 93-94 mph. With his sinker, he’s getting ground balls on 58 percent of ball put in play.
LHP Francisco Liriano (3-6, 4.37), Tigers: It’s been an odd stretch. He’s not thrown more than five innings in his last four outings (one was a relief appearance). He’s only allowed four earned runs in 14.2 innings, but he’s walked nine and his strike percentage is just 56 percent.