'I was pretty hot': Gardenhire lit into listless Tigers mid-debacle

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers second baseman Josh Harrison can't get to the ball in the fifth inning of Thursday's loss.

Detroit — There was no fire-and-brimstone from Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire after Thursday's embarrassing 17-3 whopping.

It couldn’t wait that long.

“We had that in the dugout in the third inning,” Gardenhire said. “I said about all I needed to say in the third inning. I was flinging it out there pretty good. I don’t know what language it was in, but it was definitely not the normal language.

“I was pretty hot.”

Injuries, an overtaxed pitching staff, hitting slumps, aggressive mistakes — these are all part of the landscape through a long baseball season. But to Gardenhire, mental lapses in the field and on the bases, sloppy defense and a general lack of hustle are inexcusable and unacceptable.

And he saw more than his share of that Thursday.

“Cut-offs, relays, not moving, standing — it was meant for a lot of people,” Gardenhire said of his dugout diatribe. “We had a runner thrown out with Miggy at the plate. A lot of little things, and a lot of them in that one inning.”

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It was in the first inning when Nick Castellanos tried to steal second base with two outs and Miguel Cabrera at the plate. It wasn’t called from the bench, and it was not a close play at second.

“That made Miggy lead off the next inning and Miggy’s not Rickey Henderson,” Gardenhire said. “We don’t want Miggy leading off, we want him to hit with runners on. We told Nicky about it. It was a bad play.”

But it was the top of the third that set Gardenhire off. Shortstop Ronny Rodriguez made a slow turn on what should have been a double-play grounder. First baseman Niko Goodrum made an errant throw to second that thwarted another double-play chance.

When the dust settled, the Athletics had scored six runs, five of them unearned.

“There were a lot of things that happened in that one inning that cost us six runs,” Gardenhire said. “And cost that kid (pitcher Spencer Turnbull) about 25 extra pitches. I was frustrated, so I vented.”

No jury would convict.

Pitching in

The final indignity Thursday was that for just the second time in his long managerial career, Gardenhire was forced to use a position player to pitch.

Utility man Brandon Dixon pitched the ninth inning, striking out Marcus Semien but also giving up a two-run home run to Mark Canha.

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“It’s not something you want to do because it means the game has gotten out of hand,” said Dixon, who pitched in two games with the Reds last season. “But once they have you do it, you just want to make it quick so you can get your guys off the field.

“It’d been a long day at that point.”

Dixon hadn’t given up a run in his 1.1 innings of work last year.

“Eventually somebody is going to get you when you throw 70 mph,” Dixon said with a smile. “It was only a matter of time.”

Michael Cuddyer in 2008 was the only other position player Gardenhire used to pitch. 

The Mercer mystery

You watch him field ground balls, you watch him take batting practice — Tigers shortstop Jordy Mercer looks healthy and ready to go. Except, every time he runs straight ahead, he aggravates the pain in his right quad.

“The MRI looks good but there’s still some inflammation in there,” Mercer said. “I don’t know what to tell you. We’re taking it day by day, getting treatment every day. It’s slowly getting better but...

“It’s just frustrating, to say the least. It’s really frustrating.”

The Tigers had hoped to send him out to on a rehab assignment this weekend, but they backed off.

“He had soreness,” Gardenhire said. “We can’t send him out until there is no soreness. It doesn’t bother him when he’s taking ground balls and he looked great in the cage today. But he feels it when he runs straight ahead.

“We’re trying to figure out ourselves what exactly he’s got. But we can’t send him out until he’s healthy.”

Mercer first injured the quad on April 14. He came back, played a few games and then re-aggravated it on May 9. He is contemplating just trying to play through the pain, but the last thing he wants to do is set himself back to where it was in April.

Around the horn

Starter Jordan Zimmermann (UCL sprain) continues to throw off flat ground, extending out to 90 feet.

“Zimm is getting antsy,” Gardenhire said. “He wants to speed up the process and see where it goes. Our plan is to take a little more time here. Let it slow down so we don’t blow it out or hurt him more. He had a good day yesterday, no pain, but he’s still going to be a little while.”

...After seeing two specialists, Tigers starter Tyson Ross, who is out with ulnar neuritis, apparently has no other structural damage. Still, he was advised not to throw for another seven to 10 days.

...The Tigers scratched Goodrum from the lineup an hour before Friday's game because of flu-like symptoms. Gordon Beckham took his spot at the top of the batting order, playing shortstop. Rodriguez was moved from short to first base.

Athletics at Tigers

First pitch: 4:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/Radio: FSD/97.1

Scouting report:

►RHP Daniel Mengden (0-1, 6.75), Athletics: He was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas last week and gave up four runs and five hits in 5.1 innings against the Indians. He has an opportunity to claim the fifth spot in the A’s rotation.

►LHP Matthew Boyd (4-3, 3.15), Tigers: Odd dichotomy: Boyd has a career-best 30-percent strikeout rate, yet, in terms of barreled balls (8.1 percent) and exit velocity (88.1 mph), he’s getting hit harder than he has since 2015. Still, opponents are hitting just .208 off him and his WHIP is 0.99.


Twitter: @cmccosky