Tigers take no chances, pull Julio Teheran quickly after his back tightened

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
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Lakeland, Fla. — Tigers right-hander Julio Teheran, a non-roster invitee who seems on his way to winning a spot in the Tigers' rotation, left his start against the Blue Jays Monday in Dunedin after just two innings and 30 pitches.

The Tigers said Teheran experienced back tightness and was removed from the game as a precaution.

“I feel fine,” Teheran said afterward. “We stretched it out (in the clubhouse) and I told the trainer I wish we could re-enter so I could keep pitching. But obviously, I came out for a reason.”

Detroit Tigers starter Julio Teheran pitches during the first inning Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays in an exhibition game.

He said he felt it in the first inning after he landed after throwing his first fastball.

“I thought it was just going to be something normal, you obviously don’t feel the same every start,” he said. “My arm was good, but I wasn’t finishing my pitches. I found a way to get through the two innings, but we don’t want to risk it.

“We don’t want it to affect anything going forward.”

Manager AJ Hinch called the decision to take him out proactive.

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“The only thing that was fair to him and fair to us is not to take any chances whatsoever,” Hinch said. “He wanted to stay in. We just took it out of his hands.”

The Tigers ended up losing to the Blue Jays 4-3, but the only damage off Teheran was a leadoff home run by Marcus Semien. Teheran struck out three and got nine swings-and-misses on 16 swings.

“He’s done everything he can to put himself in a good position to be part of us moving forward,” Hinch said. “I love his spirit on the mound. He brings energy and athleticism every day. I have loved how he’s approached this competition.”

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With Spencer Turnbull on the COVID-19 injured list and with Michael Fulmer still transitioning back after Tommy John surgery, Teheran could be on the verge of winning a spot on the Opening Day roster, which would trigger a $3 million payday for him.

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Monday was supposed to be the deadline for him to exercise his opt-out in the minor-league deal. That obviously didn’t happen.

“I’m not really thinking about that,” Teheran said. “I decided to come here because I wanted to pitch here. I was believing in myself that I can make this team. And the way I have pitched, I think I can make this team.

“That’s a decision I don’t have control of, but I feel good about the way I’m pitching.”

Teheran has 15 strikeouts and one walk in 11 innings this spring.  

Push the envelope

From the very first day of spring training, Hinch has preached aggressiveness. Pitch aggressively to gain count leverage. Defend aggressively to put pressure hitters. But especially, run the bases aggressively to put pressure on the opposing defense.

“We have talent on this team and we have to find ways to cultivate it,” he said. “We have to find ways to win games in different ways. We’re not going to be able to sit back and just bang with everybody all the time. No. 1 is our ballpark and No. 2 is the style of hitters we have.

“We are just not going to be able to sit back and hit three-run home runs all the time.”

The Tigers gave a textbook example of what Hinch has been asking for in the second inning. With one out, JaCoby Jones got hit by a pitch and then boldly advanced to third base on a base hit to shallow right-center field — testing the arm of Blue Jays right fielder Randal Grichuk.

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“JaCoby challenged one of the better throwing arms in the outfield in Grichuk,” Hinch said. “Normally, if you know too much about the other player you’re going to be less aggressive. JaCoby forced a throw and Baddoo took second.”

The play wasn’t over. Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., threw the ball to second too late to get Baddoo. Jones bluffed off third, drawing an errant throw from Semien that ended up in the stands.

Both runs scored.

“That was A-plus base running in that sequence,” Hinch said.

Around the horn

Grayson Greiner continues to stand out in the backup catcher battle. He capped that three-run second inning with a 416-foot home run that cleared the wall in center field.

…Outfield prospect Riley Greene, called over from mini-camp, hit a laser double in the top of the ninth. Statcast registered the exit velocity at 115.8 mph. That’s the second-hardest hit ball in the Grapefruit League this spring, second to Giancarlo Stanton’s 120.1 mph.

…Right-hander and non-roster invitee Erasmo Ramirez pitched three more scoreless innings. He cruised through on 32 pitches.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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