The Detroit Tigers awakened for a brief moment on Sunday to power their way to a win against the Chicago White Sox, avoiding a series sweep. Monday is an off day before we see Detroit roll into a six-day stretch where they will play their final seven games of a forgettable 2019 season. The next time I sit to write a links post for all of you folks, the Tigers’ offseason will have officially begun.
Don’t. Stop playing.
Manager Ron Gardenhire had a clear message for the team after Friday night’s series opener against the White Sox; don’t stop playing. It appeared as though the team seemed to be a little less than fully invested at the time. From Gardenhire’s perspective, these games are important, as they are helping some of these players prove that they should be around for 2020 (and beyond).
Fortunately, Saturday and Sunday seemed to show the kind of response the manager was looking for. Managing a team with 100-plus losses through the last few weeks of the season can’t be a fun gig, and keeping players engaged through that can’t be easy to do. At least Gardenhire is trying.
Expectations for this Tigers team were never high. The official line from the team and the players is that they aren’t focused on the fact that they are playing a historically bad season — they are roughly 50 games outside of first place, and dangerously close to setting the record for the most home losses in the modern era. It’s an unfamiliar position for many of these players, as they have been accustomed to playing on teams that performed to some level of success up to this point. Playing through adversity can teach valuable lessons, but I hope they don’t have to continue to learn them much longer.
Quitting on Candy?
Another point of consideration as the team looks to next year is what role Jeimer Candelario will have. He didn’t exactly light the world on fire this season (unless you look at his numbers in Toledo) and the guy who was supposed to hold down third base has been moved to allow Dawel Lugo — not the third baseman of the future regardless of what anyone tries to tell you — time at the hot corner. Gardenhire is hoping Candelario just needs to work through some things with his swing. Candelario, for his part, is focused on finishing the season and getting back on the right side of things by playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, something the team advised him against doing last year while he recovered from a wrist injury.
The arrival of pitcher John Schreiber in Toledo was an unknown blessing for the 25-year-old. Juan Nieves, the Mud Hens’ pitching coach, asked him why he didn’t throw a backdoor slider, and Schreiber’s answer was that he’d never heard of it before.
“I asked why he didn’t throw a back-door slider,” Nieves said. “He’d never heard of that before. He was a one-sided guy, glove side, with his slider going into lefties and lefties were hitting a high average against him.
“I showed him he could throw a back-door slider and I showed him he could pitch up in the zone, too.”
Nieves did some teaching, Schreiber did some learning, and the result is the guy you see today. Combined with that slider came a new found willingness to throw up in the zone, and the specialist was transformed. The team seems to be pleased with what they have seen from Schreiber in the major leagues so far, which is a young guy with a more promising future than they might have expected.
Record of sadness
The Tigers managed to be a record-setting team in at least one regard when they allowed the Cleveland Indians to punch them around to the tune of an 18-1 record this season. I doubt you want to relive how it is this feat occurred, but if you do, ESPN decided to break down each game to really drive home the point that this team is not good.
Standouts from the farm
If you are interested in the future (which you should be) and have a subscription to The Athletic, you can get a gander at how the farm performed, and who some of the highlights were this season. As far as highlights go, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Isaac Paredes, Derek Hill, and Jose Azocar get acclaim of some form or another. There are quite a few things to be excited about here, for sure.