Below will start in Scherzer's place Tuesday for Tigers
Moments before the media came flooding into the postgame Tigers locker room, rookie left-hander Duane Below was told that his evening was about to get a whole lot hairier.
The native of Britton, Mich., may have been scratching his head when he didn’t get into Monday’s game against the Twins, even with the early exit of starter Doug Fister, but it became clear what was up when he was tabbed to be the fill-in starter in place of Max Scherzer on Tuesday.
It was one of a trickle-down flurry of postgame moves.
“They let me know probably right before you guys. When I didn’t throw tonight, I was just kind of questioning why, but then they told me,” said Below, acknowledging that he’d probably have to make a phone call or 10 to let his family know, especially with relatives coming into town this week for the holiday.
“I’m excited. ... I want to be part of the team, and help the team any way I can, and filling in this spot tomorrow, I’m looking forward to it.”
Below started twice last season, and was a contender for the fifth starter job in spring training, but earned a call-up as a replacement part in the bullpen, and hasn’t left. He was supposed to get a start on April 30, but it was rained out.
He’s not going to change anything radical in less than 24 hours, though.
“I’m still going to do the same thing, not try to change it. Pitching out of the bullpen, coming in for long innings, I tried to keep the same mindset, keep the same focus on the things I’m trying to accomplish. That’s getting outs, keeping the ball on the ground. I get in trouble when the ball starts to elevate. That’s when guys start hitting the ball hard, line drives, and that’s when I start giving up home runs,” Below said.
“I’m going to go out and attack the hitters ... and let our defense do the work. Other than that, I’m just going to try to have fun.”
While Below’s getting a shot that many fans have wanted to see all season, it’s only one that’s happening out of desperation.
Scherzer was expected to make the start until the Tigers got word that he couldn’t on Monday, thanks to a hamstring he tweaked, jogging on the turf at Tampa’s Tropicana Field.
“It’s one of those we just kinda can’t afford to take a chance. We spoke to him today. He’d thrown today, but when he tried to really let go a little bit, he’d feel it,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We automatically scratched him — not taking any chances. We do not expect him to miss his next start, which will be before the break, obviously.”
Barring any further setback, Scherzer will return to his normal spot in the rotation on Sunday, and pitch in the Tigers’ final game before the All-Star break.
In addition to losing Below, the bullpen will likely be without two of the pitchers who did throw in relief of Doug Fister in Monday’s game. Phil Coke will likely be unavailable after throwing 25 pitches in two innings of work, while Luis Marte was optioned to Triple-A Toledo to make room for one of two promotions.
The Tigers recalled right-hander Jose Ortega, and purchased the contract of left-hander Darin Downs — a 27-year-old native of Southfield who is still trying to re-start his career after a line drive broke his skull in 2009. The Tigers will have to designate a minor leaguer for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Downs, but had not yet told the player in question as of late Monday night. [UPDATE: Matt Young was DFA'ed Tuesday afternoon, the team announced.]
The Tigers also optioned infielder Danny Worth to Toledo. After making his 18th start of the season on June 15, Worth had seen action in just five of the Tigers’ next 16 games, all in a reserve role.
“We need bodies. (Marte) did a good job. He didn’t do anything wrong, neither did Danny Worth. But we’re in a situation where we knew this was a possibility,” Leyland said.
“Sometimes guys are just victims of circumstance. You’ve gotta get your roster. ... We’ve had a lot of this going on all year, but ... you just fight through it.”