CLEVELAND – Trevor Rosenthal’s first pitch as a Tiger was a 98-mph fastball that sent Indians hitter Tyler Naquin swinging and missing to begin the eighth inning of the Tigers' 8-6 loss on Monday at Progressive Field. It also crossed up catcher John Hicks and hit home-plate umpire Laz Diaz
CLEVELAND – Trevor Rosenthal’s first pitch as a Tiger was a 98-mph fastball that sent Indians hitter Tyler Naquin swinging and missing to begin the eighth inning of the Tigers' 8-6 loss on Monday at Progressive Field. It also crossed up catcher John Hicks and hit home-plate umpire Laz Diaz in the right leg.
After a nasty 99.6-mph high fastball that Naquin chased and missed, Rosenthal threw a ball behind Naquin, then another well off the outside corner. He settled down to fan Naquin on a sharp slider.
“Obviously first time out there with a new team, I’m trying to make a good first impression,” Rosenthal said. “It was probably good to get out there with Hicks and get my feet wet throwing to him for the first time.”
With that, Rosenthal began his Tigers tenure with a snapshot of why Detroit signed him three weeks ago and brought him up earlier Monday. While his command is spotty, his pitches are still tough when he’s on.
“We’ll take it,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said after Monday’s 8-6 loss to the Indians. “We want to see what he can do. Good start tonight.”
Rosenthal earned Monday's callup from Triple-A Toledo shortly after the Tigers signed him to a Minor League deal on June 29. The stint is a chance for Rosenthal to show he can still pitch in the Majors after the Nationals released him June 23. Rosenthal’s numbers in Toledo didn’t force the Tigers’ hand, but his power fastball showed enough to get a shot.
Rosenthal allowed six runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings with the Mud Hens, walking six, striking out nine and hitting a batter. Three runs and four hits came in his first outing, July 1, after which he seemed to settle down. He allowed a run in each of his past two outings, including a solo homer in his last appearance.
“I think there was some kind of obligation here to [say] either yay or nay,” Gardenhire said, “so it’s time to be yay, and here we go.”
Rosenthal’s fastball hit 98 mph a few times in that first appearance, but he lacked command. He has slowly improved on that with help from Mud Hens pitching coach Juan Nieves, who served in the same role for the Marlins and Red Sox.
“He had some really good insight,” Rosenthal said. “We talked a little bit of mechanics, but more just mindset and pitch location, how I’m attacking hitters. He had such great experience and knowledge that I was able to really bond well with him and take some advice.”
Now, Rosenthal will try to take that with him to the Majors, where he walked 15 of the 43 batters he faced with the Nationals this season and hit three others. He yielded 16 runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings while striking out five.
Rosenthal allowed a Francisco Lindor single Monday, but he finished his outing with another 99-mph fastball. This one fanned Carlos Santana, whom Rosenthal set up with back-to-back sliders.
“I thought I made some good pitches,” Rosenthal said. “A couple of pitches I thought I could’ve handled a little bit better, but especially after the first at-bat, I thought I got ahead with some quality pitches. I felt a little better as I went along.”
Castellanos moves to cleanup spot
The change on the lineup card caught Nicholas Castellanos’ attention as he walked into the Tigers' clubhouse Monday afternoon. Instead of batting in front of Miguel Cabrera, as he had for nearly the entire season to date, he was batting behind Cabrera, taking over in the cleanup spot.
Gardenhire suggested it came up accidentally when he plugged Cabrera back into the lineup card on his computer after giving him Sunday off. But there’s a design to it.
“I just don’t like it when we go 1-2-3 in the first inning and Miggy’s leading off the second,” Gardenhire said. "I’ve hated that every time we’ve done that. I see him leading off [an inning], and it does nobody any good. So if we can put more traffic on in front of Nicky, who’s been swinging pretty good, maybe we’ll score some runs.”
Though the Tigers entered Monday with an MLB-low .227 batting average with runners in scoring position, Cabrera’s .451 average (32-for-71) with runners in scoring position is the best in the Majors among hitters with at least 75 plate appearances in such situations. The rest of the team is batting .203.
Normally, that motivation has been behind batting Castellanos second and Cabrera third. With Harold Castro swinging well lately in the second spot, batting 13-for-30 with seven RBIs in his past seven games, the Castellanos-Cabrera duo moved down.
Funkhouser sent to Erie
Kyle Funkhouser entered July as a strong option to make his Major League debut with the Tigers as a starter this summer, especially after tossing six scoreless innings for Triple-A Toledo on June 26. He allowed 17 runs on 23 hits over 8 1/3 innings over his next three starts for the Mud Hens.
Thus, the Tigers are sending their 10th-ranked prospect (per MLB Pipeline) to Double-A Erie to work out his issues.
Funkhouser said after yielding seven runs on eight hits over 1 2/3 innings July 1 that he was rushing his mechanics and falling behind too many hitters.
“We’ve been really trying to work on it, and just struggling to click it all together,” he said at the time.
After Funkhouser recorded six walks over 3 2/3 innings in his next outing, however, the issues seemed to worsen.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.