DETROIT -- The dress rehearsal for the 35th anniversary celebration of the 1984 World Series champion Tigers was going on in the Comerica Park outfield Saturday morning as Detroit’s potential next late-inning reliever was auditioning in the bullpen behind the stage.
Trevor Rosenthal has World Series experience with the 2013 Cardinals, which seems like a lifetime ago even though he’s just 29 years old. He still has the velocity to make an impression, as assistant general manager David Chadd and pitching coach Rick Anderson can attest. He can also draw an audience, as current Tigers pitchers Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris watched him throw.
“This guy’s a power arm, and he was throwing the living crap out of the ball down there,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The command has been the main question, which is how the hard-throwing righty came to be released by the Nationals last weekend. The Tigers believe they can work with him on that.
“I’ve heard great things through the grapevine. These guys have tremendous experience,” Rosenthal said. “And today, getting to sit down and talk and hear what they have to say and their plan, it’s exciting. I feel a lot better about it after we had a chance to talk. And then I got to throw in front of them and get their feedback, and they’re excited, so that makes me excited as well.”
Rosenthal had barely finished throwing when the Tigers made his Minor League contract official. He’ll head down Interstate 75 to join Triple-A Toledo for a stretch, but he’s expected to join Detroit’s bullpen sooner rather than later. From there, the Tigers will try to get him back on track with his career.
He’s a project, as his numbers with the Nationals show. But with the Tigers where they are, and Rosenthal where he is, he’s a project worth their time to take on.
“That’s a good thing for us,” Gardenhire said. “It’s another power arm, and if we get this guy back and he gets cooking down there real quick, it won’t take long. We’ll get him back up here and let him go.”
It was an odd coincidence that Rosenthal arrived while the Nationals were in town this weekend. Washington essentially ate the remainder of Rosenthal’s $7 million contract for this year to cut ties after he walked all three batters he faced last Saturday against the Braves.
As for what went wrong, Rosenthal said, “I think just consistency, consistency with my performance and pitching, but at the same time just the consistency of when I’m going to be pitching and my role, just the day to day, continuing to get reps in. With the time that I had off, [I'm] trying to just be in a place where I can get that work in and work through things when I need to, or have some help when I need it as well. I think that’s what I’m looking forward to iron out a little bit.”
The Nationals released him on Sunday. Rosenthal made plans to move him and his family back to their offseason home in St. Louis, then decided to rent a truck and move them himself before focusing on his future.
From the outset, the Tigers stood out.
“When my agent [Scott Boras] was going through the different scenarios and teams and possibilities, we just felt like it was going to be a good opportunity for me with this organization and what they had to offer to help me get the work in that I needed and provide me with opportunities to pitch,” Rosenthal said. “That’s something we were looking for. I think ultimately, their interest and their willingness to invest in me and help me out made me comfortable and excited to be a part of it.”
The Tigers will be on the hook for the Major League minimum.
“Go down to Toledo, get some innings in and get to a place where I’m built up or comfortable, whatever that looks like, to where I feel confident to come back here and help this team,” Rosenthal said. “I can’t imagine it’ll be a super long time.”
Norris OK after groin cramp
Though the Tigers' telecast showed Daniel Norris in the dugout with a bloody thumb, that wasn’t the reason for his exit after just five innings and 77 pitches in Friday night's 3-1 loss to the Nationals. The concern was cramping in Norris’ left groin, the area where he underwent surgery last year.
A day later, it doesn’t appear to be a lingering worry.
“Chuck is Chuck. He’ll be fine,” Gardenhire joked Saturday. “We told him to back off on his running and calm down. It was hot and he was sweating, and he started getting cramps.”
Norris said he felt the cramping in the opening inning covering first base, then again in the third. He felt like he could pitch through it.
“I’ve felt cramps in there ever since surgery when I’m working out or doing sprints,” Norris said after the game. “On those days, I’m done with my conditioning the rest of the day. But this time, it happened in the first inning and I had to keep pitching. That’s the only reason that they saw it, but I’m not concerned about it. It’s part of surgery, and you have to go through it.”