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Gerber grateful to be Tigers' 26th man in DH

Outfielder motivated by short stay as he returns to Triple-A
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The callup was just for a day. For outfielder Mike Gerber, the Tigers' 26th man for Friday's day-night doubleheader against the Royals, it was a long time coming.

"You work your entire life for this, and this has been the goal since Day 1," said Gerber, who entered in Game 2 as a pinch-runner for Miguel Cabrera after his two-out single put the potential tying run on base in a 3-2 loss. "Every kid dreams about playing up here in the big leagues."

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DETROIT -- The callup was just for a day. For outfielder Mike Gerber, the Tigers' 26th man for Friday's day-night doubleheader against the Royals, it was a long time coming.

"You work your entire life for this, and this has been the goal since Day 1," said Gerber, who entered in Game 2 as a pinch-runner for Miguel Cabrera after his two-out single put the potential tying run on base in a 3-2 loss. "Every kid dreams about playing up here in the big leagues."

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Gerber had to work harder than most. A 40th-round Draft pick out of high school, he went undrafted after his junior season at Creighton, but an outstanding senior season made him a 15th-round Draft pick by the Tigers in 2014. From there, Gerber had to prove himself at every level, providing consistent production until a .304 average and a .869 OPS last year at three Minor League levels landed him on the 40-man roster this past offseason.

"I knew once I was drafted, I was going to have to put up numbers and perform," Gerber said.

Gerber did not get off to a great start this month at Triple-A Toledo, batting .229 (11-for-48) with three doubles, two home runs, five RBIs and 19 strikeouts in 11 games. But with the Tigers looking for an extra position player rather than another pitcher for the doubleheader, and Gerber providing a badly-needed left-handed bat against Royals right-hander Jakob Junis, he got the call.

"My stomach just kind of dropped," Gerber said. "I'm still kind of speechless, still a little bit in shock, but I'm excited."

Maybe it was fitting, then, that Gerber had to endure a similar wait to get into a game.

"I told him, 'Just think about telling your grandbabies a long time from now, after your big league career of 10 years, that you pinch-ran for a Hall of Famer,'" manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's a pretty good bubble-gum card."

It was a brief stint for Gerber, who was optioned to Toledo after Game 2. At least the call came with enough advance notice that it became a celebration. Everyone from family to friends to former Minor League teammates made plans to fly to Detroit, resulting in more than a dozen guests on hand at Comerica Park. Gerber's uncle was set to travel to Orlando, Fla., and he changed his flight at the last minute. Even Gerber's younger brother David, a pitcher in the Mariners' farm system, received permission from his manager at Class A Clinton to be on hand.

"I'm so excited to be here," Gerber said. "Getting up here makes you not want to leave, so it's good motivation for getting back. It's an experience I'll never forget, and hopefully I'll have many more like it."

Gerber is the 22nd Creighton baseball product to play in the Majors, a list that includes Hall of Famer Bob Gibson and former Tigers outfielder Kimera Bartee.

Video: KC@DET: Saupold retires Soler to seal the win

Saupold called up
A week and a half after Warwick Saupold was the odd man out in the Tigers' bullpen mix, the Aussie right-hander is back in, having been called up as a long reliever. He replaces Chad Bell, who was optioned to Toledo after Thursday's win over the Orioles

Saupold tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings on three hits and a walk in four appearances with the Tigers, but he was optioned to Toledo on April 7 when Detroit decided to keep Daniel Norris in the bullpen. The Tigers needed a fresh arm after Bell pitched 1 2/3 innings and yielded three runs Thursday.

Quick hits
• Right-hander Matt Manning, the Tigers' No. 2 prospect (No. 55 in baseball) according to MLB Pipeline, was added to the Class A West Michigan roster on Friday for his season debut. The former first-round Draft pick missed the start of the season with an oblique strain.

• Former Tigers coach Gene Lamont returned to Comerica Park for Friday's doubleheader. He's working as a special assistant with the Royals.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Mike Gerber, Warwick Saupold