Ron Gardenhire rails about missed cutoffs by Tigers outfielders

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — Not only is it bad form by a rookie, Christin Stewart, who only two weeks ago was still playing Triple-A ball at Toledo.

It's "everyone," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday as he got into an animated, energized, borderline furious  overview of outfielders — and infielders — who are messing up some basic skills, with emphasis on cutoff throws.

Tigers left fielder Christin Stewart fields a two-run double off the bat of the Twins' Tyler Austin in the seventh inning Tuesday night.

"We've got to eliminate long throws and get it to the cutoff man, and quit trying to throw out people, and we'll be OK," Gardenhire said as the Tigers dressed for Wednesday's 1:10 p.m. game against the Twins at Comerica Park. 

"We throw it over the first guy's head (shallow outfield cutoff target) and bounce it to the second guy. 

"And that's very irritating."

Gardenhire watched as Stewart lollipopped a throw in Tuesday night's game that missed Jeimer Candelario and led to a runner advancing. But he isn't putting it all on a kid fresh from the bushes. 

All of the Tigers outfielders have had their moments, he said, despite constant "chirping" and "harping" from coaches, which are headed by outfield tutor Dave Clark.

"Clarkie's been waving his hands in the air, too," said Gardenhire, who said he, and all the Tigers coaches, were exasperated and working continually to pound into the noggins of Tigers outfielders the need to target throws to that initial station — basic baseball that can elude young big-leaguers, but shouldn't.

It will be a topic high on the agenda, Gardenhire vowed Wednesday, when the Tigers hold their organizational meetings at Lakeland, Fla.

"Yes," Gardenhire said, amplifying a date he's red-lettered, "October 8."

That means the Tigers development staff, which would testify cutoffs are always among their first commandments, will be hearing from Gardenhire, and his coaches, about ways basic baseball execution might be reinforced at the lower levels.

"We don't have all the answers," Gardenhire said, but he mentioned that his coaches also would be on hand as the front office and farm officials review 2018 and prepare for 2019 — and beyond.

"But runners are spinning around the bases. We're still not very good."

It's the repetitive times that those initial cutoff gloves are missed, Gardenhire said, that lead to runners standing at second base rather than being held at first, which can eliminate double-play possibilities, leave runners a single from scoring, and create bigger innings when minimal damage might have been done.

"Why?" Gardenhire asked, his voice rising. "Why do we want to get a baseball dirty when we don't have to? When we can throw it to a glove?"

The skipper wasn't speaking Wednesday only of relay throws. He was still dissecting a sixth-inning ground ball in Tuesday night's 5-3 loss to the Twins

Jake Cave slapped a Daniel Norris pitch up the middle that Dawel Lugo, playing second base, could have, and probably should have, gloved for what might have been a double play.

It instead bounded off his glove for a single.

Gardenhire was irked that Lugo didn't take a mandatory crossover step — that he stepped first with his right foot, which cost him a stride, and a possible game-changing put-out.

It's a standard step infielders are taught. Gardenhire believes Lugo, who is only 23, will grow in understanding and executing an essential move.

But it's too slow to seep into the minds of too many players, these reflexive acts big-league players must make, and Gardenhire believes enough is enough.

He was dealing Wednesday with one less infielder to school. Candelario was gone with a "lumbar spinal spasm" that knocked him out late in Tuesday's game.

It's a "tight back," in lay person parlance, but it left Gardenhire scrambling. Ronny Rodriguez was set to start at third base, with JaCoby Jones, back after a shoulder issue has subsided, starting in center field.

Jones also was Gardenhire's main option as a fill-in infielder while Niko Goodrum continues to heal from a quadriceps strain.

The Tigers, meanwhile, prepared for Spencer Turnbull's first big-league start. Turnbull was a second-round pick by the Tigers in 2014 and has a power-pitching portfolio the Tigers were eager to view Wednesday.

Twitter: @Lynn_Henning