Minneapolis — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire was sitting in his office before the game Thursday night watching Bobby Valentine and others on MLB Network rant and rave over the Ronald Acuna Jr., beaning on Wednesday night.
You know the story by now. The Braves dynamic rookie had homered in five straight games and led off the three previous games with a home run. Marlins pitcher Jose Urena made sure it wasn’t going to be four straight lead-off homers.
He drilled him with a 97-mph heater on the first pitch of the game. Acuna deflected the pitch with his elbow, or it might’ve caught him in the head or neck. Acuna left that game — Urena was ejected — but he was back in the Braves lineup Thursday.
The more he watched the discussion — and the news wasn’t released yet that Urena was suspended for six games — the more fired up Gardenhire got.
“Leading off a game, throwing at him because he hit a homer off you, that’s taking it a little too far,” he said. “It was a National League game (pitchers hit), my preference would have been to leave him in the game. That would’ve been it.
“He does something like that, the umpire leaves him in the game, then you let them take care of it the way it’s supposed to be taken care of.”
Gardenhire made it clear that he was speaking on it without knowing whether Acuna had showboated or tried to show up the other team after any of his home runs. He did not, according to the reports. But just going on the basic fact that a pitcher drilled a hitter on the first pitch of the game because the hitter had been hot — he can’t abide that.
“I hate that stuff,” he said. “It’s a nightmare. You could kill somebody. Just to open up (a game) like that? It’s ridiculous. Drill a guy because he’s hit a home run? Try to get him out. I thought it was blatant and ridiculous.
“Baseball has to handle that. That’s a joke, in my opinion.”
Tigers’ reliever Alex Wilson makes no bones about his willingness to drill an opposing hitter if the situation calls for it — like it did last season in the brawl game against the Yankees. But in this case, Wilson wasn’t on board with what Urena did.
“That was a bit much for me,” Wilson said. “If you want to throw one in there to say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen what you’ve done the last few days,’ OK. But you don’t throw a chaser at his head. It was clear intent. I don’t agree with that.
“If you hit somebody after they’ve thrown at one of your guys, OK. But hitting a guy because he’s doing really good is not. But it’ll come full circle, and when it does, there’s not a word (Urena) can say.”
Urena is probably lucky Gardenhire wasn’t his manager.
“I would be mad enough, if I was their manager, I might start him tomorrow and lead him off just so they could smoke him — just because he did something so stupid,” Gardenhire said. “Throw at a kid like that just because he hit home runs? Come on.
“The kid has done nothing but play good baseball. But you know, baseball has a way of taking care of itself. He is in the National League.”
Players have long memories.
“And they have friends (on other teams),” Gardenhire said. “I am sure this isn’t over.”
Turns out Tigers catcher-first baseman John Hicks was playing through quite a bit more than a groin strain.
He had surgery Thursday on both hip areas to correct a bilateral core muscle defect on each side.
“It went well,” Gardenhire said. “It’s going to be what we thought it was going to be — about three to six weeks.”
Hicks’ season is over. The Tigers can eventually move him to the 60-day disabled list to open a spot on their 40-man roster. That would facilitate bringing up a third catcher when rosters expand on Sept. 1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be one candidate for that.
In the meantime, Jim Adduci is going to get the bulk of playing time at first base. James McCann and Grayson Greiner will handle the catching.
Around the horn
Shortstop Jose Iglesias (right hand contusion) wasn’t in the lineup Thursday and likely won’t be again on Friday. “He’s going to miss a couple of games,” Gardenhire said. “It’s sore and we’ve got to get it calmed down here. I told him I wouldn’t play him unless I absolutely had to.”
… Gardenhire wouldn’t name a starter for Saturday. It’s Artie Lewicki’s turn, but he’s been put on the disabled list with elbow soreness. Gardenhire did, though, rule out making it a bullpen game. Most likely, left-hander Ryan Carpenter will be summoned from Triple-A Toledo.
… Lewicki got some good news. His soreness was caused by bone chips in his elbow and surgery will not be required. He will get treatment and hopes he will only miss one start.
… Left-hander Daniel Norris (oblique) took another step forward in bid to make it back to the Tigers in September. He struck out seven in 2 2/3 innings in his second rehab outing for the GCL Tigers West team. His fastball averaged 92 mph. He allowed a run and three hits.
… The Twins are going to honor Hall-of-Famer Jack Morris in a ceremony on Saturday. Call it Jack-Fest West. The Tigers had a day for Morris last Saturday.
Tigers at Twins
First pitch: 8:10 p.m., Friday
RHP Kyle Gibson (6-9, 3.49), Twins: He beat the Tigers last Saturday, checking them on one run and seven hits over seven innings. Of his 111 pitches, 48 were sinkers. The Tigers only put nine in play (12 foul balls and two hits) and took it 14 times for called strikes.
LHP Matthew Boyd (7-10, 4.20), Tigers: Through good starts and shaky starts, opponents haven’t hit him all that hard. Per Statcast, his 4.1 percent barrel rate is in the top five percent of qualified A.L. starters. His .215 weighted batting average against is in the top seven percent and his 29.5 percent whiff rate is in the top nine percent.