Blogs > Out of Left Field

A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

When is the Handshake of Doom ... not?

If you watch, late in any starting pitcher's outing, there will be the manager, poised one foot on the dugout steps, waiting to greet him, hand extended.

Once the two press flesh, and the handshake is completed, the deed is done. So is the day.

It's called the Handshake of Doom, and it's the harbinger of a relief pitcher taking over.

Don't pitchers ever want to dodge it?

“At times. Obviously you never want to come out of the game, no matter where you are pitching-wise," admitted Tigers starter Doug Fister, with a wry grin. "With pitch count or results or anything else, it’s a matter of the competitive nature always wants to stay in the game.”

As it so happens, Fister himself managed to dodge it Saturday — or at least talk his way out of it.

When the lanky right-hander headed to the dugout after the eighth inning, sitting on 106 pitches after eight shutout innings, there was his manager, Jim Leyland, standing on the steps, waiting for him, arm extended, hand flat.

It was over, right, Yogi Berra?

Not necessarily. After the Tigers fans in attendance got one more chance to see MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera bat in the bottom of the eighth, grounding out to end the inning, out of the dugout bounced Fister.

Wait ... huh?

"I had a feeling Skip might think about pulling him out, but I knew he was going to try and convince him," catcher Alex Avila said. "He was pitching way too good, I thought, and with an 8-0 lead and a doubleheader tomorrow, why not just take a chance?"

The manager did need some convincing.

"I was going to take him out. Only because I was worried about the pitch count. He’s never had a shutout, and he said, ‘Please let me have a chance at it.’ I said, ‘All right, you’ve got a couple of hitters, but make it quick,' " said Leyland, who knew Fister wouldn't have a problem actually getting the complete-game shutout, but didn't want him to mess around, and run up his pitch count, getting up in to the 120-pitch range.

As Leyland said, "This is no time to get sentimental."

"I told him, ‘You gotta make it quick. I’m going to give you this opportunity, but you gotta make it quick. Because I can’t let you throw 120 pitches trying to get a shutout. Not this time of year.’ He’s got a big game to pitch again," the skipper said. "So that was a little bit tougher than it seemed to the average person. But I’m glad I did it."

And he wasted no time. 

"He followed orders pretty good," Leyland grudgingly admitted, after Fister finished off his first career complete-game shutout with just 11 more pitches. He finished with 117 for the night. 

“It doesn’t change anything. I go out there and still make pitches. That’s my mentality every inning is make it quick. I want to get bad contact within the first three pitches anyway, limiting to less than 15 pitches an inning. It doesn’t change anything for me,” Fister said.

“It’s an honor for me, coming from Skip, to allow me to go back out there. It’s something special.”

It helped that he was helping himself. Fister got 10 ground-ball outs, three of them coming with assists of his own.

"Fister showed you why you talk about PFP (Pitchers' Fielding Practice), because he’s a great fielder," Leyland said. "He helped himself two or three times today, including one of the double plays, and another shot up the middle that he stabbed."


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home