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Detroit — Ron Gardenhire was told before the game Sunday that a couple of his pitchers had expressed appreciation for his willingness to have their backs when they aren’t getting borderline calls from the umpire.

Gardenhire was ejected for a Tigers-record seventh time on Saturday.

“Does that appreciation go to their billfold,” Gardenhire said as the room exploded in laughter. “Just throwing that out there. How much appreciation do they have?”

Gardenhire was perplexed by this recent ejection, which came in the fourth inning of the Tigers' 7-5 win.

“I was going out to make a pitching change,” he said. “I was pointing down to the third-base umpire (Brian O’Nora) and he wasn’t looking. I looked back to the home plate umpire (Mark Ripperger) and he thought I was yelling at him.”

Were you?

“I said, ‘I’m making a pitching change (pause) ... because you missed that pitch!’” Gardenhire said. “He threw me out basically before I could say anything. Honestly, I was going out to make a pitching change.”

He got his money’s worth, though. He made a quick right turn toward home plate and, with his feet, drew a line on the outside edge of the plate, showing where the disputed pitch from Gregory Soto was. It would have been a called third strike on Brian Dozier.

Instead, Dozier smacked the next pitch for an RBI double.   

“Yes, I was mad, but I couldn’t get the third base ump’s attention,” Gardenhire said. “Then I had to look at (Ripperger) and he’s yelling. ‘What!’ Then I added on – ‘Because you missed the pitch, I have to take him out.”

Gardenhire said Ripperger might’ve had his back up from all the yelling coming out of the Tigers’ dugout.

“To tell the truth, Lloyd McClendon was hollering at him pretty good,” Gardenhire said. “There was a lot of yelling, but Lloyd’s got that booming voice. (Ripperger) might’ve thought it was me that was yelling. Lloyd came in an apologized.”

That apology, like the pitchers’ appreciation, did not apparently extend to his wallet, either.

Gardenhire is on pace to shatter the Major League record of 11 managerial ejections in a season.

“We know he’s fighting for us,” reliever Blaine Hardy said after the game Saturday. “We know he has our best interests in mind. When we see him go out and draw a line in the dirt, it excites us.”

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Soto is staying 

Soto, who lasted 3.2 innings in his sixth spot start Saturday, will get at least one more before the All-Star break.

“He’s going to be here,” Gardenhire said. “He’ll get another start (probably Thursday in Chicago). We’ve got a lot of games coming up here. He did fine. His fastball was good. We just have to figure out what happens when he goes down (to Triple-A Toledo), why is he misfiring so much and then he comes up here and looks like that.

“But he’s going to be here. We need him right now.”

Soto was throwing 96-98 mph heat right out of the gate Saturday. But by the third and fourth innings, the velocity was down to 93-95. He attacks his starts almost with a reliever’s mentality – go as hard as you can for as long as you can.

“That’s something we talked about,” Gardenhire said. “Somewhere down the road maybe he’ll be that bullpen guy. But our starting pitching is so thin. You like to develop great arms like that with stuff, if they throw it over (the plate).

“But it’s good he can do both. If he can come in and be a power arm out of the bullpen, that’s good, too.”

The Tigers will need to bring up another starter to pitch in the double-header against the White Sox on Wednesday.

Around the horn

Shortstop Jordy Mercer (quad) played his eighth rehab game with the Mud Hens Sunday and will be activated off the IL on Monday.

“We wanted him to play nine innings in multiple games,” Gardenhire said. “Everything seems to be going OK.”

To make room for Mercer, Ronny Rodriguez was optioned to Toledo after Sunday's game.

… Miguel Cabrera, who had three hits and three RBIs Saturday, was not in the lineup against his former teammate Max Scherzer Sunday.

“It’s a day game and he ran the bases a little bit and was sore,” Gardenhire said. “No big deal. We’re trying not to play him on day games, especially with a day off (Monday), it gives him two days.”

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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