Posted on 17 June 2012.
DETROIT — The Tigers have had a lot of strange plays go against them this season.
When they finally got one in their favor, it turned out to be a doozy.
In the fifth inning Saturday, Detroit held a slim 2-0 lead when Miguel Cabrera led off with a routine grounder back to rookie pitcher Christian Friedrich.
That’s when the stadium DJ should have really hit the callopie music.
Cabrera didn’t break hard out of the batter’s box, only getting up to speed when he saw the ball bounce off Friedrich’s glove. Because of the slow start, he still had plenty of time to scramble after the ball and throw Cabrera out at first.
Friedrich didn’t know that.
“I was upset because I didn’t make the original play — that’s a play you make 99 times out of 100,” he said. “So I was running after the ball with my back to the runner, and I rushed things. I didn’t see how much time I had until just after I released the throw.”
By that point, it was too late.
The throw sailed past first baseman Todd Helton and down the right-field line. To make things worse for the Rockies, the ball lodged against the tarp instead of bouncing back toward any fielder.
That led to a wild chase, with catcher Wilin Rosario, second baseman Chris Nelson and right fielder Michael Cuddyer going after the ball while Cabrera rounded second and headed for third.
The rest of the Rockies players were going in every other direction. With the catcher in right field, third baseman Jordan Pacheco had gone to cover the plate, leaving Friedrich at third base with Carlos Gonzalez racing in from left field to back him up.
“There were a lot of kids involved in that play, and once you start having to chase down a loose ball like that, things get out of kilter,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “He doesn’t score on that play if someone just grabs the ball and holds on to it, but young players try to do too much.”
Rosario grabbed the ball but, to Terry’s chagrin, didn’t hold on to it. Rosario fired to third, and his throw skipped past Friedrich, allowing Cabrera to trot home on a ball that was hit about 60 feet and wildly thrown about 250.
“That’s the old Little League home run — that’s what that was,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We’ve all been through that before.
“That’s off the sandlot, and it was fun to watch.”
GETTING AVILA BACK
Alex Avila is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday, and the Tigers think there is a chance he will be able to return for that afternoon’s game against the Cardinals.
If things go well for him during Sunday’s workout at Comerica, he would begin a three-day rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Toledo.
“I think Alex is going to go out very soon, and that’s good news,” said Leyland, who has been dealing with Detroit’s injury problems all season. “If we get back to pretty much normal — not that we’ve made any excuses — but then you have no excuses.
“We’ve had a couple good signs, having Jackson back and Fister today, and as bad as everything has gone so far, it’s not like we are off the radar screen.”
ROTATION UP IN THE AIR
The Tigers still haven’t made an announcement about their pitching rotation past the middle of the next week.
Max Scherzer will pitch Sunday against the Rockies, and Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday against St. Louis.
But with Casey Crosby back in Toledo and Drew Smyly on the disabled list with the biggest blister Leyland has ever seen, the Tigers will need to add someone to the rotation sooner rather than later.
Even if Fister and Scherzer come back on four days’ rest, the Tigers won’t have anyone ready for Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh.
There are several possibilites, including having Jacob Turner or Adam Wilk come up from Toledo, or bringing Duane Below out of the bullpen for one game.
A final decision probably won’t be made until after Scherzer’s start on Sunday.