Cleveland – Not the way you want to start a three-city, 10-game road swing.
Right-hander Julio Teheran experienced tightness in his right triceps while warming up for his start Friday night and was officially scratched after the Tigers had batted in the top of the first inning.
Lefty Derek Holland got the emergency call and the Tigers had to scramble in a 4-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
“At the end of his warmups, the bullpen phone rang and it was (pitching coach Chris) Fetter telling me Teheran wasn’t feeling good and was unlikely to start the game,” manager AJ Hinch said. “The bullpen guys were still walking down there (toward the bullpen, which is in right-center field at Progressive Field).
“Teheran said he was willing to pitch, but it wasn’t looking good, from what Fetter told me. There was no need to risk further injury.”
Holland has been ambushed like that before in his career, which is partly why Hinch called on him.
“I did like one thing (warmup) to activate my shoulder and that was it,” Holland said. “Being in that situation before, I kind of knew what to be ready for. It just sucks. You don’t ever want to see anything like that happen to a teammate.”
Hinch said he was planning on meeting with the trainers and with general manager Al Avila to figure out whether Teheran would be placed on the 10-day injured list.
“You pull your pitcher right before the game, it doesn’t look good and it doesn’t feel good,” Hinch said. “We’re not sure if he will be able to avoid injured list time.”
Teheran, who beat the Indians in his first start last Saturday, came out of his last start in spring with back tightness. If does go on the IL, it’s very likely Michael Fulmer would replace him in the rotation.
Fulmer pitched four strong innings Friday, throwing 68 pitches.
“That’s why I (stretched him out), just in case I needed him,” Hinch said. “We needed to cover the game. We were still in the game. But if something does push us to make a decision with the rotation, I wanted him to be able to go 50-60 pitches.”
The Indians scored three runs off Holland in the first, with the help of a fortuitous bounce. With one out and a runner on first, Jose Ramirez hit a ground ball up the middle, directly at second baseman Niko Goodrum, who seemed poised to turn it into an inning-ending double-play.
Instead, before it got to Goodrum, the ball caromed off the base and into center field.
Holland got the next hitter Eddie Rosario to hit another ground ball. This one got to Goodrum at second base, but again, the Tigers missed turning the double-play. Rosario beat the return throw from shortstop Willi Castro and a run scored.
“Rosario did a nice job hustling to beat the ball out,” Hinch said. “The ball wasn’t hit that hard. Niko made a strong throw to second and Willi (Castro, shortstop) made a good throw to first.
“They play hard. They finished the play and Rosario’s hustle created the opportunity.”
Franmil Reyes followed that with a 409-foot, two-run home run to left field, the first of two monster homers he hit Friday.
“I just wanted to save the bullpen as much as I can,” said Holland, who went 2.2 innings. “I tried to plead with AJ to stay in there longer, just because I know we’re on a long trip with no days off. We needed to save the bullpen as much as we can.
“I was willing to wear it. Whatever I had to do.”
The Tigers bullpen kept the game close. Buck Farmer got four outs and then Fulmer went to work.
But the fatal blows had already been struck. Indians starter Zach Plesac breezed through seven shutout innings on just three singles (two by Castro). He struck out six.
“He was a lot better today than he was (last Saturday) at home,” Castro said. “His fastball, he was throwing a lot of fastballs up (in the zone) and we were trying to adjust to that. He was pretty sneaky today.”
Fulmer struck out five and didn’t walk anyone in his four innings. Both his fastballs (two-seam and four-seam) were hitting 96 and sitting at 95 mph and he was deftly throwing his slider off the fastballs. He got five swings and misses on 15 swings at his slider.
“The slider velocity (88-89 mph) comes from the fastball velocity and the arm speed,” Fulmer said. “We’ve worked on it quite a bit to make the slider look like the fastball as much as possible. It’s gotten a lot better.”
The lone blemish was another long home run by Reyes – this one, on a center-cut 95 mph fastball, went 446 feet to dead center.
“I was tired,” Fulmer said, with a smile. He hadn’t gone four full innings since Sept. 9, 2018. That was before major knee surgery and before Tommy John surgery.
“If need be, yeah, I’d be ready (to make a start in five days),” Fulmer said. “It’s not my call. I’ll do whatever AJ needs. Tonight I was just glad to save the bullpen a little bit and throw four innings.
“I feel like I’m good. I’ve learned a lot of stuff and I have to take that position, I’m ready.”
The Tigers lone run came from the first batter to face an Indians pitcher not named Plesac. Wilson Ramos launched his third homer of the season, a 443-footer into the shrubbery in center field off Bryan Shaw.
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