Hinch, fellow MLB managers balance today, future in handling starting pitchers

Detroit News

Detroit – Tigers manager AJ Hinch could certainly empathize with what Brewers manager Craig Counsell and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli were going though Saturday night.

Their starting pitchers – Twins Jose Berrios and Brewers Corbin Burnes – were both throwing no-hitters through six innings. And both, coming off the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, were over 80 pitches. The dilemma facing both managers was choosing between a historical pursuit and the players’ health.

“I don’t know,” Hinch said, laughing. “I had a no-hitter go 140-plus pitches (former Tiger Edwin Jackson with Arizona), so I might be the wrong manager to ask. I like guys to finish games.”

But Hinch knows the situation Saturday night was much different. And he applauded how both managers handled it. Baldelli pulled Berrios after six innings and 84 pitches. Counsell sent Burnes back out for the seventh, but he lost his no-hitter on a home run by Byron Buxton.

“Yeah, I felt for both of them,” he said. “I would’ve done the exact same thing. No way you’re going to jeopardize long-term health for the chase of that one day.”

More: Thrown right into the fire? That’s how Tigers Michael Fulmer wanted it

But, as Hinch acknowledged, it’s a no-win decision. If you pull the pitcher during a no-hitter, the pitcher isn’t happy. If you let the pitcher stay, the organization isn’t happy.

“In this job you are protecting the here and now and also the long-term view of some guys,” Hinch said. “But pitching, especially this season, is at a premium. You have that old-school in you that wants to just ride out the game and give (the pitcher) the right to go after it. But you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“The only bad decision you can make in that situation is something that ends up not in your favor. But the easiest way to protect that is to protect the health.”

Day off for Miggy

Miguel Cabrera was cramping up late in the game Saturday, which made Hinch’s decision to give him Sunday off easier.

“I was looking for a day off for him in this homestand,” Hinch said. “It’s convenient just given he was sore coming out of yesterday and I want to give everybody playing time. So it was a little bit of both, but it’s nothing I’m concerned about at this point.”

Harold Castro got the start at first base and Hinch used the designated hitter spot to keep Robbie Grossman’s bat in the lineup while facilitating a start for Rule 5 rookie Akil Baddoo. Grayson Greiner also got his first start of the season behind the plate.

Range of velocity

He claims he’s not manipulating anything. It’s not a strategy. Not a concern.

But the reality is, rookie lefty Tarik Skubal throws a lot of four-seam fastballs and hardly any of them at the same speed twice in a row,

“Most of the time I’m just pitching, just throwing,” he said. “I’m not too worried about velo unless it is significantly down.”

He threw 52 fastballs, 60% of his 87 pitches. They ranged in velocity from 90 mph to 97 mph, with an average of 93.6.

“If there’s a count where I need to get a fastball by a guy, I’ll reach back and try to throw it harder,” he said. “But I’m just trying to locate. Wherever it (the velocity) is at, it’s at. I’m just trying to be aggressive.”

Walking man

Tigers left fielder Robbie Grossman has walked into the Tigers record books in just three games with the club. Literally walked.

He drew two more walks on Sunday, bringing his total for the three-game series to eight, in 13 plate appearances.

He is now the first and only player in franchise history to walk eight times in the first three games of the season. He is also the first to do so across baseball since Kevin Maas did it with the Yankees in 1991.

He is the first leadoff hitter to do so since Eddie Yost of the 1956 Senators.

The downside, he’s still looking for his first hit as a Tiger.

Around the horn

… Right fielder Nomar Mazara hit one home run in 149 plate appearances with the White Sox last season. He hit his first home run this year in his ninth plate appearance. He was 4 for 11 in his debut series with the Tigers.

…The Tigers scored two runs in the first inning of all three games in this season-opening series. That hasn’t been by this club since 1929.

… Indians center fielder Jordan Luplow pointed out to left field as he was running toward third base following his two-run homer in the seventh. Here’s why: “There were some guys chirping (at) me with, like, ‘Oakland Athletics gear.’  They were chirping me. I’m an Oakland fan. I grew up going to the games, but I was talking to them and they were chirping me, so I gave them a little point after.”

On deck

Twins at Tigers

►Series: Three-game series at Comerica Park

►First pitch: Monday-Wednesday – 1:10 p.m.

►TV/radio: Monday – ESPN, 97.1; Tuesday-Wednesday — BSDet, 97.1

►Probables: Monday – RHP Matt Shoemaker (no record) vs. RHP Jose Urena (no record); Tuesday – LHP J.A. Happ (no record) vs. RHP Casey Mize (no record); Wednesday – RHP Kenta Maeda (0-0, 2.08) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (1-0, 0.00).

►Shoemaker, Twins: The Trenton and Eastern Michigan University product has pitched well against the Tigers over the years. His only other appearance at Comerica came in 2015 and, with the Angels, he threw seven, one-hit shutout innings. J.D. Martinez got the lone hit off him that day.

►Urena, Tigers: He got a late start this spring, but in his last two spring starts seemed to be getting his sinker-slider package under better control. When he is right, his sinker, which he can run up there at 95 mph, is a premium weapon.

–Chris McCosky

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