Minneapolis — It just seemed odd. Michael Fulmer trading clubhouses a couple hours before the game, wearing a Twins’ uniform, No. 52, sitting in the home bullpen with his Tigers buddies right next to him.
“Yeah, of course I messed with him,” Tigers reliever Andrew Chafin said. “I yelled, ‘What are doing over there?'”
A few hours later, outfielder Daz Cameron was sitting in front of the locker just vacated by Robbie Grossman, who now plays for the Atlanta Braves. Apparently, Cameron will be activated soon, though the Tigers have not made that move yet.
“It’s kind of a toss-up,” catcher Eric Haase said. “You know you are going to go out there but you don’t exactly know who is going to be on the field with you. It’s always like that at this time of year.”
When the trade deadline expired and the dust finally settled on a steamy Tuesday night at Target Field, the Tigers went about trying to salvage something out of the rest of this disappointing season.
Rookie Riley Greene, who was in a 0-for-11 skid and had struck out five of his previous seven at-bats, produced two hits, including a single in the seventh that broke a 3-3 tie and sent the Tigers to a 5-3 win over the Central Division-leading Twins.
“We came back from a couple of different deficits, which was nice,” manager AJ Hinch said. “It was good to see Akil get a base hit and Riley back-to-back. Both have been scuffling. It was good to see guys get a little hot.”
Akil Baddoo and Riley Greene will play prominent roles these two months. Cameron may, as well.
In the fifth inning, Greene lined a double off the right-field chalk line off lefty reliever Jovani Moran that tied the game at 2.
Greene’s big-league baptism is certainly one of the focus points the rest of the way.
As for Baddoo, part of the reason the Tigers so aggressively shopped Grossman was to clear the decks for him to play regularly. The Tigers need him to prove he can a major piece of the outfield next season.
Baddoo, who is expected to get regular starts going forward, drew a walk in the third inning and, in the pivotal three-run seventh, singled home the tying run.
But his throwing arm continues to be a concern. Luis Arraez challenged him in the third inning, tagging on a shallow fly ball by Nick Gordon. Baddoo’s throw was on the first-base side of home plate. In the fourth, Jake Cave challenged him again, taking second on a routine single. Baddoo’s throw again was wide of the target.
And speaking of salvageable parts, right-hander Matt Manning made his first big-league start since April 16, missing three-plus months with a shoulder injury.
“I was really excited to be back,” he said. “It’s always good to be back with these guys. For my first time back since early in the season, I felt pretty good. Nothing like playing some big-league baseball.”
The Tigers need to know how much they’ll be able to use Manning next season. Even if he makes 10 or 11 starts, he may still be under 100 innings this season.
That means he will likely have his workload restricted at some point in 2023.
“We will be a little cautious because he’s coming off an injury,” Hinch said. “But we want him to have success. We will pay attention to his innings but he’s still a developing pitcher.”
His start Tuesday was encouraging, if not entirely smooth and clean. There was traffic on the bases in every inning. He gave up five hits and walked four in his five innings but was able to limit the damage to three runs.
“I was fighting my command today,” Manning said. “I knew I was missing arm side early, then I overcompensated and I was missing glove side. But I really like where my off-speed is at. I just didn’t give myself enough chances to succeed tonight.
“I’m just happy we got a win.”
He used all five of his pitches. His four-seam fastball sat at 92 mph and hit 94.5 mph, and his slider got four swings and misses. And he didn’t give up a ton of hard contact (average exit velocity 87.6 mph), although the changeup he hung to rookie Mark Contreras in the third inning was obliterated. It left the bat at 107 mph and traveled 407 feet into the seats in right field.
It was Contreras’ first big-league homer.
“It was nice to have Matty back on the mound,” Hinch said. “He might’ve been just as nervous as he was for his debut. He looked a little jumpy early but he settled in. He was pretty hard on himself. It’s just nice to see him navigate the lineup.”
As Fulmer sat looking on from his perch in the Twins’ bullpen, his former bullpen mates made the two-run lead stand up. Jason Foley, Chafin, Joe Jimenez and Gregory Soto each pitched a scoreless inning.
Soto, who threw 29 pitches on Monday night, earned his 20th save of the season.
Foley’s inning was interesting. With one out, he walked Jake Cave and gave up a single to Gary Sanchez. Hinch bounded out of the dugout. Usually that means a pitching chance, he had Chafin warming.
But he didn’t take the ball.
“We weren’t going to mess around,” Hinch said. “I wasn’t going to leave anything to doubt. He was out there to get a ground ball. That was why I was leaving him out there. Most of the time I go out I take the guy out. I like that he didn’t hand me the ball. He wanted to know why I was out there.
“I told him he was our best matchup to get a ground ball, so find a way to get a ground ball.”
One the next pitch, Foley got Contreras to hit into a fast 4-6-3 double play.