Green Monster puts spotlight on Tigers third-base coach Dave Clark

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers third-base coach Dave Clark

Boston — When you think about the Tigers' keys to success in a series, you probably have to go deep into the list before third-base coach Dave Clark is mentioned.

But not when that series is in Fenway Park.

“I think the third-base coach become very vital here,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The reason is the fabled Green Monster, the 37-foot wall that stands 310 feet from home plate in left field. Routine fly balls become doubles. Scorched line drives that would carry over smaller fences and into the seats also become doubles, or singles, depending on how well the carom is played.

Going first to third, or second to home, on balls hit to left field also becomes tricky.

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“I have to make sure I see the ball coming off the wall, what angle it takes, how far the outfielder plays, how deep,” Clark said. “All that stuff comes into play. This is probably one of the toughest places for a third base coach.”

But one thing doesn’t change — regardless of the ballpark.

“We are still going to be aggressive,” Clark said. “Hopefully I don’t get guys to run into outs, but we still want to make the defense play fast. Anytime you get a defense playing fast, they’re apt to make more mistakes.

“We’ve seen that happen and we’re trying to take advantage of it.”

The Tigers have had nine runners thrown out on the bases this season, not counting the two runners who were caught stealing.

But they’ve also stolen a couple of runs by aggressively challenging outfielder’s arms, either scoring from second on a hit or from third on shallow sacrifice flies.

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“It’s not fun when you are getting guys thrown out,” Clark said. “That’s when you hear about it from the fans. I’ve always said, being a third base coach you’ve got to have thick skin. But if you are going to make mistakes, you’ve got to err on the aggressive side.

“That’s what Gardy preaches and that’s what we’re going to do.”

It’s a different challenge at Fenway, though. There is no way to predict how a ball will carom off the left-field wall.

“So much comes into play,” Clark said. “Whether it hits the wood or it hits the tin. That’s one of the reasons you see me up the line so much. I want to read everything that ball does. And you cannot see the ball in the left field corner. I have to get on the field of play to watch the ball down the line.

“It’s like that in Houston, too. I’ve done it for a while, but it doesn’t make it any easier. But it’s all about the challenge.”

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Clark also is the outfield coach, so he spent a long time during batting practice Tuesday hitting fungos off the monster, so left fielder Dustin Peterson — making his first appearance at Fenway — could get a feel for it.

“I just told him to play shallow,” Clark said. “It’s the best way to play here because any ball over your head is going to be off the wall or out of the ballpark. And it’s a lot shorter throw if you play shallow.”

Clark also spent time with center fielder JaCoby Jones before the first game Tuesday, reminding him that he will need to track every ball hit to either gap to be in position to help with the caroms.

“That wall changes the game,” Gardenhire said. “It changes the way you try to pitch, making them hit the ball to the big part of the field. But if you get caught up in all that stuff, you will probably screw yourself.

“Just be yourself, make your pitches and stay aggressive.”

Jordy Mercer could return by the end of the week.

Mercer rehab relocated

The Tigers have moved Jordy Mercer’s rehab venue to Lakeland.

“He can’t do anything here with the way the weather is,” Gardenhire said. “He wanted to be on this trip, but the weather got to us.”

Mercer, on the injured list with a quad strain, was initially scheduled to field some ground balls and do agility work here in Boston, then play some games at Triple-A Toledo. That became undoable. So, he flew south to finish the rehab at TigerTown.

“He’s been running straight ahead and he still feels it a little bit,” Gardenhire said. “The next step will be for him to run around the bases and make cuts. Then we’ll get him into a couple of games.”

He will play in the High-A Florida State League games with Lakeland. Gardenhire estimated Mercer could be back by the end of this week.

Hardy heading to IL

Between games Tuesday, the Tigers announced that left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left forearm strain.

They made it retroactive to Monday.

Hardy has pitched 12 innings in eight games this season, second only to Shane Greene in the Tigers bullpen. He pitched 1.1 innings on Sunday.

The Tigers called up left-hander Jose Fernandez from Triple-A Toledo. He arrived in Boston just before the second game of the double-header. Fernandez, who made his big-league debut with the Blue Jays last year, pitched in seven games for the Mud Hens. He'd allowed three earned runs with eight strikeouts and five walks. 

Around the horn

Left fielder Christin Stewart (quad strain) also will be sent on a rehab assignment, but it hasn’t been determined when or where. “He’s still sore, but it’s more muscle soreness, not that deep, sharp pain in his knee,” Gardenhire said. “As of right now, he’s not really doing much baseball work. Just treatment and rehab.”

… Gardenhire was asked if he had any advice for Peterson, making his first start in left field at Fenway Park. “He’s got Clarkie for that — that’s as good as it gets,” he said. “If I give him any advice, it would be, ‘Don’t run into the wall. It really hurts.’”

… Miguel Cabrera (86), Nick Castellanos (76) and Candelario (79) went into play Tuesday without homering in a combined 241 plate appearances.

… The Tigers added right-handed pitcher Zac Reininger from Toledo for Game 2 on Tuesday. Teams are allowed to expand their roster for doubleheaders.

Tigers at Red Sox

First pitch: 7:10 Wednesday, Fenway Park, Boston

TV/radio: FSD/97.1


LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (1-2, 7.20), Red Sox: He’s allowed 16 earned runs and 26 hits in 20 innings over his first four starts, but his last two have been better. He allowed two runs to the Orioles in 6.2 innings and three in 5.1 innings against the Rays. He struck out 14 over those two outings.

RHP Tyson Ross (1-2, 3.38), Tigers: He deserved a better fate against the White Sox in his last start. He allowed a run and four hits before the Tigers made three errors behind him in a three-run sixth inning. He has deftly mixed his three-pitch arsenal, but his slider has been especially effective (.129 opponents average with 10 strikeouts).

Twitter: @cmccosky