Detroit — It’s not that he’s heartless, not completely.
But Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire wasn’t about to apologize for giving rookie outfielder Christin Stewart his first big-league start against Justin Verlander.
“Why not?” Gardenhire said with a grin, indicating Stewart will be in the lineup Monday against the Astros and Verlander. “I made my debut in Houston and I had to face Nolan Ryan in my second game. If I can do that, he can do this.”
Believe this: After playing 160 games over two seasons at Double-A and another 122 games at Triple-A this year — hitting 57 home runs in the process — Stewart doesn’t care who he faces in his first Major-League start.
“When you work your whole life to get to this point and you finally get here, it’s kind of hard to put into words,” said Stewart, one of three players the Tigers added to their roster from Toledo on Sunday. “I’ve always dreamed of this day as a kid.
“To finally be here, it’s a blessing.”
Stewart, veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and reliever Zac Reininger found out minutes after the Mud Hens were eliminated from the postseason Saturday night that they were headed to Detroit. Stewart, who was not in the lineup Sunday, was going on two and a half hours of sleep.
“It was a lot of emotion,” he said. “It was crazy because we had just lost and got kicked out of the Governors' Cup, and they told us, ‘Hey, you’re going up.’ Emotions kind of switched really quick.”
Gardenhire said he expects Stewart to play left field regularly for the rest of the season. Mikie Mahtook, JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes will be rotating in center field and occasionally subbing for designated hitter Victor Martinez.
“We want to see him,” Gardenhire said. “With all the hype, and he had a good year down there. He’s one of the guys we really want to see. He’s going to play a lot. He’s part of the future. We’ve gotten good reports on him. They say he’s made a lot of improvement in the outfield.
“That will be interesting to see in this outfield (at Comerica Park). It’s a big outfield, a little different than what he’s been playing in.”
Stewart has been the Tigers’ minor-league position player of the year the last two seasons. It was a surprise that he wasn’t called up last September. So, this year, he wasn’t making any assumptions.
“You are never sure until they tell you,” he said. “I knew there was a chance. I just stayed on myself to keep doing what I was doing throughout the entire year and it paid off. I’ve been playing this game my whole life. You just have to stay within yourself, and all the outside stuff you try to put on the backburner.
“Just focus on the day at hand.”
He’s 24 years old and this is just his fourth season in professional baseball. So, while Tigers’ nation was clamoring for him to get here, Stewart himself stayed patient.
“It was all in my best interest,” he said. “Yeah, I had a couple years where I put up some good numbers, but they know what they are doing. It just wasn’t my time. Now it is.”
Stewart did get his first big-league at-bat on Sunday. He pinch-hit in the ninth inning and fouled out to third base to end the game.
"Huge adrenaline rush," Stewart said. "They told me I might go in to pinch-hit and it was just wild emotions. I had to try and calm my adrenaline. It was a blast. I loved every second of it."
As for facing Verlander in his first start, Stewart shrugged.
"There's nothing wrong with that," he said.
Gardenhire said he expects two or three more pitchers to be added to the roster this week.
He wouldn’t name names, but left-hander Matt Hall and right-hander Spencer Turnbull are possibilities. Both are starting pitchers.
“We’ve been talking about it — Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) and Al (Avila, general manager) — and we’re probably going to us a six-man rotation,” Gardenhire said. “That’s what we’re going to do. It’s the right thing to do.”
The current rotation includes Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd, Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris and Francisco Liriano. Liriano, Zimmermann and Norris are slated to pitch against the Astros Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Gardenhire said they would not modify the rotation to keep Fulmer and Boyd on regular rest. It is unclear whether Liriano will be pushed to the bullpen after his start Monday.
Saltalamacchia, an 11-year big-league veteran and the Tigers' backup catcher in 2016, spent the entire season at Toledo. It gave him, perhaps, a taste of his future.
“It was a different role for me,” he said. “Helping those young guys. It was fun.”
He only played in 67 games, serving more as a mentor and coach. He’s not quite ready to hang up his spikes, but he’s already spoken to vice president of player development David Littlefield about transitioning into a coaching role.
“I feel like I helped some guys out down there and I had a blast doing it,” he said. “I would love to coach, for sure. We will see how the offseason goes. I would like to continue in that role.”
Brayan Pena, who made a similar transition into coaching last spring with the Tigers, managed one of the Tigers’ Gulf Coast League teams to a title.
Around the horn
To make room for Saltalamacchia on the 40-man roster, the Tigers transferred pitcher Artie Lewicki to the 60-day disabled list. The 40-man roster is full, so if they do call-up Hall, they will have to make a corresponding move to create a spot for him. Turnbull is on the roster.
… In 10 starts since the All-Star break, Boyd has posted a WHIP of 0.92, second lowest in the American League. His ERA is 3.06 and opponents are hitting just .204 against him.
...Cardinals manager Mike Shildt and designated hitter Matt Carpenter were ejected by home plate umpire Lance Barrett after Carpenter was called out on strikes to end the top of the ninth. Carpenter struck out five times in the series, three times he went down looking.
On deck: Astros
Series: Three-game series at Comerica Park
First pitch: Monday — 6:10 p.m.; Tuesday — 6:40 p.m.; Wednesday — 1:10 p.m.
TV/radio: All games on FSD/97.1
Probables: Monday — RHP Justin Verlander (14-9, 2.73) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (4-9, 4.90); Tuesday — LHP Framber Valdez (3-1, 1.37) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (7-6, 4.03); Wednesday — RHP Gerrit Cole (13-5, 2.86) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (0-3, 5.47).
Verlander, Astros: This will his first time on the Comerica Park mound since he beat the Dodgers in his final home start for the Tigers on Aug. 20, last season. The Tigers bashed him for four home runs in Houston back in July.
Liriano, Tigers: Liriano picked up his first win in four months in his last outing, beating the White Sox in Chicago last week. He allowed two earned runs in five innings.