Utility player Harold Castro was needed.
Castro, 27, has competed at seven of nine positions in his four-year MLB career, but he added pitcher to his resume in the embarrassing loss. He warmed up in the batting cages before taking the mound for a scoreless inning.
“We just told him to throw as slow as he could and throw the ball over the plate, let what happens happen,” Hinch said Monday.
BULLPEN THOUGHTS: How Michael Fulmer’s mindset as reliever helps Tigers in 2021
GETTING IT TOGETHER: Tarik Skubal succeeds in 2021 debut vs. Cleveland: ‘He didn’t concede and unravel’
The first five Tigers pitchers needed 206 pitches to get through eight innings. Starter Jose Urena used 81 pitches to complete the first, second and third innings.
But Castro only used nine pitches for the final three outs. His four-seam fastball averaged 72 mph and maxed out at 75.7 mph, and he tossed in what Statcast picked up as a 65.8 mph curveball.
Castro’s inning — allowing no hits, no runs and one walk — was the team’s best pitching performance, better than Urena, Buck Farmer, Derek Holland, Bryan Garcia and Gregory Soto. He got Nelson Cruz, who went 3-for-6 with two homers and five RBIs, to fly out to deep left field.
“I don’t know how he responded,” Hinch said, “other than that was the cleanest inning we had.”
Castro declined a postgame Zoom interview request.
Through 128 games across parts of four seasons, Castro has now played eight positions: second base (38 games), center field (32), left field (14), third base (14), right field (11), shortstop (eight), first base (five) and pitcher (1).
Urena allowed six runs (five earned) on four hits and four walks. He got five strikeouts. Farmer gave up three runs, Holland allowed four more and Garcia granted the final two runs for the Twins.
While Soto got two strikeouts in the eighth inning, he put two runners on the bases by way of a four-pitch walk and sharp single into left field. Still, he didn’t allow a run.
“He just didn’t throw strikes,” Hinch said about Urena. “We had 11 walks — well, 10, Harold’s doesn’t count, he gets a pass for that — but 10 walks and six extra-base hits. To get into the game, they didn’t have to do a ton, other than the big swing from Nelson Cruz with the grand slam.
“He couldn’t command the ball inside the strike zone. A lot of three-ball counts. He found himself playing catch up from the very beginning. It comes down to throwing strikes.”
Hinch said he isn’t concerned about not having enough pitchers in his bullpen for Tuesday’s game.
Determined to stay
In the bottom of ninth inning with two outs, Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo became the first player in MLB history to hit home runs out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup in each of his first two big-league games.
On Sunday, he crushed a solo homer in his first at-bat on the first pitch he saw. On Monday, he added a grand slam to pull the Tigers within nine runs. The 22-year-old also picked up his first stolen base in the third inning.
“I’m just loving that all my hard work is paying off,” Baddoo said Monday. “Just continue that and stay mentally strong and carry that throughout the whole season.”
Through two games, Baddoo is 3-for-7 (.429) with two homers and five RBIs.
As a Rule 5 draftee, he must stay on the Tigers’ active roster for the entire season or get offered back to the Twins, his former team. Before making the majors out of spring training, Baddoo hadn’t played above High-A in the minors.
Baddoo said he is “very determined” to stick around with the Tigers throughout the 2021 campaign and beyond. He aims to be a key piece of the rebuild.
“Like I’ve said before, it was a lot of hard work,” Baddoo said. I’ve been through a lot these past two years not playing. All the hard work finally paying off, I’m so glad I’m able to be back on the field and producing.”