Where's Niko? Gardenhire tempted but resists using flu-ridden Goodrum in 9th inning

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Niko Goodrum

Minneapolis — The Tigers had the tying runs on second and third with one out in the top of the ninth inning Sunday.

On the mound for the Twins was side-arming right-hander Trevor Hildenberger, who was throwing his nasty array of slow, sweeping breaking balls out of the sunlight and into the shadows looming over home plate.

Coming up for the Tigers were two right-handed hitters — John Hicks, who had already struck out four times, and Grayson Greiner, who had fanned twice.

On the bench, still fighting the effects of a flu that's dogged him for three days, was switch-hitting Niko Goodrum. Was manager Ron Gardenhire tempted to send Goodrum up there?

Of course he was. But, as he said afterward, it wouldn't have made any sense.

"You can't do that," Gardenhire said. "Niko is sick. He's taken a few swings in the cage but he hasn't been on the field in three days. He's sitting there with a heat pack on his nose — come on.

"I'm trying to let him get through this thing."

Most likely, Gardenhire would have used Goodrum for Hicks. But in doing that, he would have removed his backup catcher from the game and, if the Tigers tied it or took the lead, he would have had to use Goodrum at first base. 

"Did he want to? Yes, he did," Gardenhire said. "But let's be smart about this. He's sick. We have to let him get better and hope he can be ready in another couple of days."

Hicks and Greiner both struck out to end the game. Nick Castellanos (toe) and Josh Harrison (shoulder) were not available to hit. Harrison could have been used to pinch run. 

Norris leaves angry

Daniel Norris was visibly frustrated when Gardenhire took the ball from him after Eddie Rosario knocked a 3-2 fastball into the right-field seats to lead off the seventh inning.

But there were five right-handed hitters coming up and Norris was at 58 pitches. Rosario was going to be his last hitter regardless.

"He needed to get one more out and he didn't," Gardenhire said. "He gave up a home run. But he can't live on that one pitch. He pitched really well once he got going. His first few pitches it looked like he was stiff.

"After that, the ball came out great and he gave us a good few innings."

Norris, who may end up taking Matt Moore’s spot in the rotation, pitched three scoreless innings in relief before giving up the Rosario home run. He allowed six hits. 

Back in 2015 and 2016, Norris threw five different pitches. The past two years, battling the groin and other injuries, he's been essentially a two-pitch pitcher.

His average fastball velocity was 89 mph Sunday. He threw 33 fastballs and 20 sliders. He only threw four curveballs and no change-ups. So essentially, except for the four curveballs, all his pitches were between 80-89 mph.

If Norris is to have success as a starter, getting through a lineup three and four times, he's likely going to have to re-establish another secondary pitch.

Around the horn

Miguel Cabrera batted second in a lineup for the fourth time in his career — not counting the 2013 postseason when manager Jim Leyland moved him up to shake up the lineup.

Cabrera singled and walked. His single was No. 2,690 of his career, passing Gary Sheffield for 70th on the all-time hit list. 

...Jeimer Candelario got two hits, hitting in the leadoff spot. He has hit leadoff twice this season and is 7-for-10 in those two games.

...Gordon Beckham's home run in the second inning came on an 0-2 count. It was his first homer on an 0-2 count since he got C.C. Sabathia on Aug. 7, 2013. 


Twitter: @cmccosky