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Right or wrong, Tigers' Gardenhire will keep taking ejections to protect his players

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Ron Gardenhire

Cleveland – John McGraw’s 114-year-old record for managerial ejections in a season is being challenged.

McGraw, managing the New York Giants to a championship in 1905, was ejected either 11 or 13 times, depending on your reference site. The Baseball Almanac has him ejected 13 times, Baseball Reference 11.

Either way, Tigers skipper Ron Gardenhire is making an unwanted run at those marks. He earned his sixth ejection here Saturday, two off his career high – in Game 72. But, he’s not doing it to be colorful or motivational. It’s not, as Jim Leyland used to call some of his ejections, eye wash.

He's purely protecting his players.

“I don’t want my players thrown out of the game,” he said Sunday. “That’s a bad deal for them when they get thrown out. It’s not good. They have to play. I’ve said this my whole career and it will never change.

“I want them to stay in the game.”

Gardenhire’s beef Saturday was with the strike zone of rookie home plate umpire Roberto Ortiz. Just like the previous Saturday when he was ejected against the Indians at Comerica Park for arguing balls and strikes with Manny Gonzalez.

Ortiz in the fourth inning called out Nick Castellanos on a pitch that replays showed was clearly outside the strike zone. Castellanos expressed his displeasure as he was walking away, and then continued from the dugout. That’s when Gardenhire stepped in.

“Our dugout was screaming,” Gardenhire said. “Nick thought he got thrown out and he was taking his jersey off. I had to say, ‘Nick, he threw me out. Why do you think I stood right in front of you?’ ... There was a lot of yelling going on in the dugout and that’s when I step out there and I get the attention on me.”

It’s mostly a no-win situation for a manager. Yes, in this case, Gardenhire might have saved Castellanos an ejection. And last Saturday he may have saved Miguel Cabrera. But, having the manager booted once a week is perhaps not the best look for a struggling baseball team.

And it certainly curries no favors with the umpires.

“All I said to (Ortiz) was, ‘You’ve got to get better,’ that’s all I told him,” Gardenhire said. “He’s a good kid and he’s trying to learn, too. He’s a good umpire. But I have to step in and get him mad at me, get him to focus on me. That’s my job.

“I’ve got coaches here who can run the ballgame. Players have to play. Right or wrong, that’s the way it is.”  

The streak is over

Spencer Turnbull is off the schneid.

Before Saturday, he was the only pitcher in baseball to have allowed 11 straight stolen bases on his watch without a single runner being thrown out.

“I didn’t realize I had that streak going,” Turnbull said. “I didn’t realize it was 11 for 11. That’s like, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

The streak ended in the second inning Saturday when catcher John Hicks threw out Tyler Naquin at second base. It appeared Naquin got a good jump off Turnbull, but Hicks made a perfect throw right on the bag.

“I knew they’ve been running on me, but I didn’t feel like it was that bad,” Turnbull said. “I saw that number and it was like, ‘That’s really bad.’ I try to mix up my looks and I try to be quick. But it’s easy to forget about the guys running and focus on the hitter.

“You can get into a pattern.”

The Indians, who have stolen 11 bases against the Tigers this season, had three off Turnbull last weekend in Detroit.

“I do have to mix up my looks better,” Turnbull said. “I did a better job of it (Saturday). But against a team like this, it’s hard to worry about the runners and not make mistakes to the hitters. Because if you leave a pitch over the plate, these guys do some damage.”

Franklin Perez

Around the horn

Tigers No. 3-ranked prospect Franklin Perez is back on the injured list after making one start at High-A Lakeland. It's the third time this season he's been shelved. The injury was not immediately disclosed, but he's been dealing with shoulder issues. He's made just two starts this season and seven total since the Tigers acquired him in a trade for Justin Verlander.

… Shortstop Jordy Mercer went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first rehab game at Triple-A Toledo Saturday. He was the designated hitter in the Mud Hens' 2-0 win. He started at  shortstop Sunday.

… Also at Toledo, right-handed pitcher Drew VerHagen may be pitching himself back into the Tigers' plans. He has made seven starts for the Mud Hens, posting a 2.38 ERA and a 1.0 WHIP, with 31 strikeouts in 34 innings. VerHagen, for the second year in a row, was designated for assignment by the Tigers and re-signed to Toledo.

… JaCoby Jones had not only hit in four straight games after going 2-for-4 Sunday, he’s doubled in three of the last four. Since May 24, he is hitting .348 with nine doubles, a triple, five home runs and 15 RBIs.

When Jones gets on base, he scores 34 percent of the time – 25 runs, 74 times on base.

Twitter @cmccosky