HOUSTON – The sight was a bit bizarre: Akil Baddoo, the surprise star of the Tigers’ first two weeks, walking back to the dugout after a called third strike he clearly saw differently. Stu Scheurwater, the home-plate umpire who called the third strike, was with him step for step, giving him an earful the entire way.
“It was just one of those heat-of-the-moment things, just competing out there,” Baddoo said. “And what happened, happened.”
The scene, in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s 8-2 win over the Astros, continued until Tigers manager A.J. Hinch stepped into the mix about halfway between the dugout and batter's box. For a brief moment, the sequence raised the question whether Hinch’s first ejection as Tigers manager could happen in the same ballpark where he received a standing ovation in his return to Houston.
According to Hinch, however, the tensions were never that high -- not between him and Scheurwater or between Scheurwater and Baddoo.
“[Baddoo] was locked in the at-bat and felt like [Scheurwater] missed a pitch or two,” Hinch said. “He told the umpire that, and Stu’s a good guy and a good umpire. He told him right back. It wasn’t that confrontational. I think it looked a little bit more contentious than it was when I got out there.
“It was a pretty easy explanation, and Akil was fighting for himself a little bit. It’s just competing.”
In that sense, Hinch has no problem with it, though he might have preferred such a display a bit less demonstrably. Baddoo looked skyward after the called third strike on a 3-2 pitch that might have been off the plate. He seemed to raise two fingers to note how many pitches in the at-bat he disagreed with.
“He needs to say his piece and get out of there,” Hinch said. “I don’t want our players to hang in there with the umpires too long, but you can stand up for yourself professionally and talk to the umpire like that. You just want to make sure he’s aware that there’s a line to be drawn.
“You can’t ask these guys not to compete. I mean, these guys care and they’re emotional and they’re locked in these at-bats. So it’s well-intended and I think we need to do it with respect. There were no further issues and there won’t be with this team. We’ve got very professional players that know how to conduct themselves. That didn’t bother me a bit, and quite honestly if you ask the umpire, it wouldn’t bother him a bit, either.”
Mazara day to day
Right fielder Nomar Mazara is day to day after leaving Wednesday's 6-4 win over Houston with a left abdominal strain following a swing in the fourth inning.
“He felt something the pitch before,” Hinch said. “He couldn’t tell if it was uncomfortable, if he’d done anything. He just said he felt something in that area, and it’s an immediate removal. We’re not going to let him take another swing when he reports that.”
JaCoby Jones replaced him in the middle of the at-bat and stayed in the game in center field, his first appearance in the series.
Skubal inspired by Mize
Tarik Skubal was in the dugout Monday night watching good friend and teammate Casey Mize pick apart the Astros' lineup for seven scoreless innings and his first Major League victory. From a personal standpoint, it was fun to watch.
“I feel like I went to the restroom one inning and I came back out and he was already through the fifth,” Skubal joked.
From a professional standpoint, it was also a reminder of the value of pitching aggressively early in counts to set up outs. As Skubal prepares for his third start of the season in Thursday’s series opener against the A’s, he’s trying to take a similar mentality.
While Skubal struggled for results in back-to-back outings against Cleveland, including allowing three home runs over four innings at Progressive Field last Saturday, he believes the issues might be more mental than mechanical.
“Just being more aggressive and down the mound the way I want to,” Skubal said. “I think that’s where I’m my best is when I’m aggressive and going at guys and seeing the glove and attacking it. That’s what I’m going to get back to doing, and that’s where I’m at mentally.”
• Miguel Cabrera continues to work on strength and conditioning as he rehabs his left biceps strain. He’s hoping to progress to on-field work and hitting progression during the upcoming series in Oakland. “He’s responded very well to the treatment that he’s getting, and he’s in great spirits,” Hinch said. “That’s always a good sign for me, when Miggy’s upbeat.”
• Rony García, who missed Spring Training and opened the season on the injured list after undergoing an appendectomy, has started pitching to hitters in Minor League camp. He’ll pitch in a couple games there before possibly reporting to the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, before the Triple-A season begins.
• Willi Castro was out of the Tigers’ lineup Wednesday for the first time all season, a day of rest according to Hinch. “He’s been a little bit caught in between the last couple series,” Hinch said. “He’ll have some at-bats where he’s patient, and he’ll also have some at-bats where he goes up there and tries to hunt pitches, and he hasn’t found a lot of success.”