Notes: Holland's WWE belts; team vaccinated

April 3rd, 2021

DETROIT -- The first hint that something was different in the Tigers clubhouse this year came when hauled a wrestling belt into his Zoom interview after his Opening Day win over the Indians.

“Well, ’s an awesome guy,” Boyd said as he held up a Macho Man Randy Savage belt, “and he got a few WWE belts for players of the game. So he gave me one today, and Miggy got the other one. So yeah, cool team stuff, cool camaraderie.”

The idea, Holland said, came from a desire to build team chemistry.

“It’s just something you want to have for more fuel to the fire,” said Holland, a WWE fan who has a friend in the business. “I mean, everything ruling us out of being in contention or any of that stuff, so I wanted to have more of the motivation. I know these guys already have it to begin with, but being able to have a player of the game, both a pitcher and a position player, I think that adds a little bit more to the team and that camaraderie and chemistry. I think that’s huge.

“I’ve done it for a while with several teams, but definitely got a lot cooler belts this year.”

Getting the belts required a leap of faith by Holland, who was in Tigers camp this Spring Training as a non-roster invitee and made his first regular-season appearance for the club Saturday, walking one in a hitless sixth. He couldn’t wait until he knew if he was on the team to order them. He didn’t show them to the team until Opening Day, before the game began.

“I took the risk,” Holland said. “I think after two appearances in Spring Training, [I said], ‘OK, I think I’m going to be confident in myself and believe I’m going to make this team.’ That’s how you always go into it anyway, but I had that feeling, and that’s what made me really go out there and [say], ‘OK, let’s get these belts.’”

In addition to the WWE belt Boyd showed off, Holland has a UFC belt. Miguel Cabrera won that one for his two-run homer and defensive play. Whoever holds the belts will decide who gets it after the next game.

The team camaraderie was immediate. Fellow Tigers pitcher told Boyd he needed to wear the belt on his shoulder as he walked into the Zoom room, which Boyd did.

“Guys want to get that belt,” Holland said. “I mean, it’s a nice piece of armor that you get to wear around, showing off that you were the player of the game. It’s fun, it’s different. It’s not something that you’re used to seeing a lot. … It was cool to see the guys’ reaction when I brought it out.”

Tigers receive COVID-19 vaccine
While the Tigers were celebrating their Opening Day victory on Thursday, they were also getting shots. The team set up COVID-19 vaccinations in the clubhouse through corporate partner McLaren Health Group.

The majority of the players and coaching staff received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which does not require a follow-up dose. Other staff and family members received the vaccine on Friday.

“With the off-day, it was perfect timing,” manager A.J. Hinch said, “and obviously a peace of mind across all of us that we’ve now been able to get a shot.”

Skubal ready for debut
The last time Skubal faced Cleveland, he racked up five strikeouts in just 2 1/3 innings of one-run ball, but he didn’t complete the third inning because the Indians ran up his pitch count with 17 foul balls. As he prepares to face a new-look Tribe lineup Sunday, he isn’t forgetting the lessons from that outing.

“I threw a lot of fastballs that game,” Skubal said. “They were fouling them off, but that’s because I wasn’t really landing anything else for strikes. So just being able to get into my counts and throw offspeed when I need it and then be able to go back to the fastball, I think that’s something that will lead to success.”

Skubal’s eighth Major League start will be his first regular-season outing in front of fans. He took in the atmosphere at Comerica Park on Opening Day to prepare.

“It was a really cool vibe in the stadium to have fans back and have that noise and not just that stadium noise that they pumped in last year,” Skubal said. “It was a lot of fun. When Miggy hit that home run, I was like, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’”

Miggy dealing with cramps
Cabrera followed up his Opening Day home run with a single and a walk as the Tigers’ designated hitter in Saturday's 5-2 win, but he was not on deck for his spot in the eighth inning. Rule 5 Draft pick Akil Baddoo was on deck to pinch-hit for Cabrera when Willi Castro grounded out to end the inning.

“He was cramping up a little bit, pretty much his whole body,” Hinch said. “He said he could hit; I said no. And we were just going to be very cautious with him.”

It's unknown if Cabrera will play in Sunday's series finale.