Bob Wojnowski, Tony Paul and Chris McCosky discuss the Tigers at the quarter pole of the season. The Detroit News
Detroit — Has left-hander Nick Ramirez pitched his way into a rotation spot?
Put it this way, Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire is rooting for it.
“We’ll have to see,” Gardenhire said after Ramirez pitched four strong innings against the Houston Astros Wednesday in the 5-1 loss. “I like him. We all like him here. We’ll be arguing for him, put it that way.”
There are two open spots in the rotation, with Jordan Zimmermann and Tyson Ross looking like they will be out another month or more. Left-hander Gregory Soto, who gave up two runs in two innings as the opener Wednesday, is going to start on Sunday against Oakland.
And Ramirez, who allowed just three hits and one earned run against the Astros, is making a bid to claim the other.
“I’ve been starting all year, so I am already stretched out,” said Ramirez, who threw 77 pitches on just three days of rest. “This is the role I am in right now, but I am open to anything. Anything I can contribute to the team.”
Ramirez, who has a five-pitch mix anchored by a devastating change-up, showed poise well beyond his eight innings of big-league experience in the sixth inning.
An error by shortstop Ronny Rodriguez started the inning. Then, after Ramirez walked left-handed hitting Josh Reddick, he got catcher Robinson Chirinos to hit a ground ball near the bag at third base. It had a chance to be a triple play, but Jeimer Candelario booted the ball, leaving a bases loaded, no-outs mess.
“Errors happen,” Ramirez said. “That’s baseball. If you can play a clean 162 games, that’d be very, very impressive. At that point, I just tried to think, what is the best way to minimize and get out of this.”
The way he did it was to make quality pitches and get two more ground ball outs. He allowed just one run.
“He was huge,” Gardenhire said. “He’s getting it done. He changes speeds, he’s got a great change-up and he kept a good-hitting team off-balance. He knows how to pitch. He’s a breath of fresh air right now.”
The Tigers defense, though, had Gardenhire grumbling. The two errors in the sixth notwithstanding, there was another misplay that led to a run in the eighth inning.
Right-hander Zac Reininger had gotten five straight outs before Chirinos lifted a pop up to short center field. For whatever reason, neither second baseman Josh Harrison nor Rodriguez went after the ball.
And JaCoby Jones, for all his speed in center field, couldn’t catch up to it. It fell in safely and next hitter Jake Marisnick ripped an RBI triple.
“No one went after it,” Gardenhire said. “The shortstop has to go out for the ball. I don’t know if he could get to it or not, but he was in position to go. He took a couple steps and stopped. Jonesy was playing deep.
“Somebody from the infield needs to make an effort to go try to catch the baseball.”