Why Detroit Tigers’ Zack Short felt ‘the most nervous I’ve been for a baseball game’

Detroit Free Press

Position player Zack Short, who recently hit a clutch three-run home run as a pinch-hitter against the Kansas City Royals, stepped up for the Detroit Tigers again as an emergency pitcher in Friday’s 12-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

It was the most nervous he has felt during a baseball game.

“I didn’t go to sleep until like 2:30 (a.m.) last night,” Short said Saturday morning, before his start at shortstop while Javier Báez got the day off for rest. “It was a tough situation to be in, obviously, but I didn’t want to be out there forever. I wanted to throw strikes and get it over with.”

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The 27-year-old infielder, who clocked pitches in the low 90s in college at Sacred Heart University, threw 14 pitches against the White Sox and averaged 43.4 mph. He generated zero whiffs and had three called strikes.

“I said, ‘Hey, just lob it in there,’ and he lobbed it,” said bench coach George Lombard, who filled in as the manager for Friday’s game. “That’s probably the slowest velocity that I’ve seen from a pitcher, but I think what’s amazing was he could throw strikes like that.”

Short faced six batters: Yasmani Grandal (lineout), Jake Burger (single), Clint Frazier (single), Hanser Alberto (groundout), Tim Anderson (single) and Andrew Benintendi (force out). The single from Anderson drove in the final run of the game and put the White Sox ahead, 12-3.

At times, Short wanted to increase his velocity to steal a strike.

“That was definitely tempting,” Short said. “You got to throw below the hitting speed. I was in the (batting) cage trying to throw it as slow as I could. When I got out to (catcher Jake) Rogers, I was throwing strikes (at 40 mph), so I just wanted to stay there the whole time. Once I got the first out, I knew I could escape it without a bunch of runs.”

Short, hitting .296 with four walks and 10 strikeouts in 18 games, would pitch again if the Tigers needed him to take the mound in a blowout. He primarily serves as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement.

But he probably isn’t looking forward to his next outing.

“That was the most nervous I’ve ever been for a baseball game,” Short said. “I just wanted to get on the mound and get off the mound. I didn’t want to be out there forever. I didn’t want to hit anybody, and I didn’t want to get hit. I enjoyed it, but at the same time, I wanted to get it over with.”

Keeping the faith in Joey Wentz

The Tigers remain committed to Joey Wentz.

The 25-year-old left-hander, who sounded defeated and unconfident after Friday’s loss, will pitch against the Texas Rangers in the upcoming series at Comerica Park. He could start, or he could come out of the bullpen.

“We may have to do some creative things,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Do we open for him to give him a change of scenery? Do we throw less fastballs? That’s probably a good start. But I think the adjustments need to happen here.”

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Opposing hitters have crushed Wentz’s four-seam fastball this season: .405 batting average, .676 slugging percentage, 30 of 55 hits and five of nine home runs. His fastball averages 93.7 mph with a slightly below-average vertical break.

“There’s probably a combination of a lot of things,” Hinch said. “You throw four fastballs to Grandal, he’s going to hit them. That’s what he does. It doesn’t matter what kind of fastball you have, or what the metrics are, or what the velo is. It’s a combination of count and characteristics and how many you’re throwing and how much you’re exposing it and what pitches to shape off of that to make it better. There’s a lot of sequencing involved. But honestly, I just want Joey to grip it and rip it a little bit and throw it to where it stays advantage. We’ll tackle it.”

In Friday’s loss, Wentz allowed five runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts in four innings. He has a 14.54 ERA with three walks and eight strikeouts across 8⅔ innings in his past three starts.

He also owns a 7.80 ERA in 10 starts this season.

“We have a lot of trust and faith in him,” Hinch said. “It’s similar to a hitter when you go through these ruts, you’re one good outing away from feeling a ton better. We’ve got to keep trying to urge him to not carry previous start into previous start. When you openly admit that you’re struggling, that’s good on one sense that you’re admitting reality. On the bad end, that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself.”

Kerry Carpenter ‘uncomfortable’ in first rehab game

Outfielder Kerry Carpenter (right shoulder sprain) started his rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Toledo. He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts as the designated hitter in Toledo and returned to Detroit on Saturday.

“It was a little uncomfortable in the box for a little bit,” Carpenter said.

“Even psychologically, we wanted to get him in the game to take some full swings,” Hinch said. “One thing you don’t practice is swinging and missing or check swinging or trying to play the game in how you have to react.”

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The 25-year-old went through throwing drills before Saturday’s game against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park.

Carpenter will rejoin the Mud Hens for Sunday’s game as the designated hitter. He continues to increase his throwing progression, both in repetitions and distance, but has been fully cleared to swing the bat.

He will also play Monday for the Mud Hens.

“He’s going to increase (his throwing),” Hinch said. “We wanted him to focus solely on the swing for now, so he’ll DH, but he’ll start to increase it a little bit. We’ll try to time it up with where his bat is and where a potential return would be.”

Minor trade for lefty pitcher

The Tigers acquired left-handed pitcher Lael Lockhart on Friday from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations. The 25-year-old has been assigned to Double-A Erie.

For now, the Tigers plan to utilize Lockhart out of the bullpen while he stretches out as a multi-inning reliever. At some point, depending on other moves, he could transition into the starting rotation. His four-seam fastball averages 91 mph from a low release point. He also throws a slider, curveball and changeup.

Lockhart posted an 11.40 ERA with 13 walks and 18 strikeouts over 15 innings in eight relief appearances for Double-A Tulsa this season. He had a 3.71 ERA in 27 games (16 starts) between High-A Great Lakes and Double-A Tulsa last season.

The Dodgers selected Lockhart with the No. 282 overall pick in the 2021 draft from Arkansas. Gabe Ribas, the Tigers’ director of pitching, previously worked for the Dodgers and knows Lockhart.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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