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Tigers ready to 'mix it up' with Cardinals after rare but important day off

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

­­Detroit — There will be a couple extra games at Comerica Park this week for the Tigers.

But they won't be the home team.

As has been increasingly the case with Major League Baseball in these opening days of a contracted season due to the pandemic, the coronavirus is again altering the schedule.

Ron Gardenhire

This time it’s the Tigers being affected.

The Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals will play all four games of their games this week at Comerica Park. On the original schedule, the Monday and Tuesday games were in Detroit, with two more games Wednesday and Thursday in St. Louis.

Both teams are off on Monday, then play single games Tuesday (6:10 p.m.) and Thursday (1:10), with a doubleheader on Wednesday (3:10). The Cardinals will still be designated as the home team for the second game Wednesday, and Thursday's game.

Manager Ron Gardenhire felt there was a benefit to the new schedule, because of Monday’s day off.

“A day of (Monday), which is OK because we have two games today (Sunday), so that’s OK, a good day off,” Gardenhire said Sunday. “We were going to play 20 (days) in a row. That’s a break. Then we’ll get them (St. Louis) in here and mix it up.”

The move comes after a weekend series between the Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park was postponed to allow additional testing and monitoring of St. Louis players and staff members.

More: 'Good recipe': Castellanos says Tigers have grown tighter, tougher from ’19 struggles

The Cardinals had multiple players and staffers test positive for the virus before the weekend series was to begin.

The decision to play all four games in Detroit was made in part to limit travel for both teams. 

Postponements continue to mount despite MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expressing confidence the shortened 60-season would make it through to the playoffs.

Manfred reiterated over the weekend he would not “quit” on this season.

“I’m just going to manage this team and we’re going to go and play the games as best we can,” said Gardenhire of Manfred’s comments. “I don’t really get involved in stuff like that. We’re just going to go on doing what they tell us to do and try to stay healthy here and play the games that are put in front of us.

“As far as the commissioner, he has to speak all the time about a lot of different things and we listen to it and then we move forward and try to do the best we can to keep our team healthy. That’s where we’re at. We’re going to play what they ask to play.”

Despite having two doubeheaders scheduled in a span of four days, Gardenhire was confident the Tigers’ pitching staff could handle the workload.

“We’ll be OK,” Gardenhire said. “It just depends if we have a bad start. You have to go through a lot of people (if a starter falters), and we’d have to make adjustments, but that’s why you have a taxi squad. That’s exactly the reason for something like this.

“We’re prepared for it as best as we can be. Hopefully our pitchers will do the right things, and we’ll be OK.”

New wrinkle 

With all doubleheaders this season consisting of seven-inning games, Gardenhire thinks the main difference in strategy will be managing pitching staffs, specifically the back end of the bullpen.

“You just play as baseball goes,” Gardenhire said. “Obviously you work your bullpen a little different. You get five innings out of your starter and you have your eighth- (Buck Farmer) and ninth-inning (Joe Jimenez) guys, that kind of stuff.”

The Tigers’ bullpen has been as effective as any around the league thus far, which gives Gardenhire added confidence.

“We have plenty of pitchers, we have a few guys out there we trust, trust pretty good, that can be in those situations (end of game),” Gardenhire said. “We’re lucky to have them. I don’t think we’ll have to put any pressure on one guy.”

Michael Fulmer

Rain issues

Cincinnati pitcher Trevor Bauer expressed displeasure with the way Saturday’s game was delayed, eight minutes before scheduled start, then eventually postponed.

“You can’t control the weather,” Gardenhire said. “We can try to anticipate what is going to happen, but obviously the rain, we talked about starting the game in a light rain but it just got heavy and it built up big and you can’t do anything about it.

“I know it was frustrations on both sides, but what are you going to do? Rain is the rain and it rained.”

Michael Fulmer was scheduled to start Saturday’s game but will now be skipped a turn in the rotation.

“With his situation and what he has had to come back from, we’re not going to do anything like that,” said Gardenhire, of potentially piggy-backing Fulmer into a relief role if needed. “He handled it very professional (Saturday) and we’re just not going to risk anything with him. He’s fought too hard and worked to hard to do this.”

Around the horn 

Gardenhire opened Sunday morning's press conference with condolences for radio personality Jamie Samuelson and Samuelson’s family.

Samuelson died Saturday night after a long fight with colon cancer. He was 48.

… Gardenhire emphasized Daniel Norris was the choice, and there didn’t seem to be much thought to promoting top prospect Casey Mize, for a scheduled start Sunday.

“Daniel Norris is the next guy in line, the line who has been here and done it, and that’s the guy,” Gardenhire said.

Twitter: @tkulfan