Early Takeaways from the Detroit Tigers' September Call-UpsSeptember 9, 2014
Earlier this month, the Detroit Tigers expanded their playing roster with the annual September call-ups. This coterie of youngsters has arrived in Motown at the back end of Detroit’s roller-coaster season. They may play an important role, as the Tigers are currently looking up in both the division and wild-card standings and chasing their fourth consecutive berth in the postseason.
The newcomers arrived in two waves, with the first batch coming on September 1:
The second installment landed in Detroit a day later:
Undoubtedly, starting pitcher Kyle Lobstein has made the most profound impact on the team. The 6’3” southpaw has been inserted into Detroit’s rotation, with Anibal Sanchez continuing to sit out with a pectoral injury.
Expectations were not high for Lobstein upon his arrival in Detroit. His numbers at Toledo promised little for a step up to the highest level: 9-11, 4.03 ERA, 1.48 WHIP.
Speaking on 1130 WDFN The Fan, MLive’s James Schmehl did not have high hopes for the tall lefty:“Lobstein, in my eyes, is not a starting pitcher in the major leagues. I think eventually he could potentially be a long reliever, but I don’t see him as a starting pitcher.”
However, the Arizona native has defied those low expectations since donning a Tigers uniform. In four appearances, including three starts, Lobstein’s numbers have been impressive: 1-0, 2.78 ERA, 1.19 WHIP. Detroit has won each of his starts, which have all been crucial.
Arguably, he has been Detroit’s best starter during this span. Max Scherzer (5.09), David Price (7.13), Rick Porcello (5.09) and Justin Verlander (4.79) all have higher ERAs and suffered at least one defeat in their last three starts.
It should be noted that only Lobstein’s last two appearances came after his September call-up. His first and second outings came during his initial stint in late August, before he was briefly optioned back to Toledo.
Recent reports indicate that Sanchez is making progress in his recovery and may soon return to Detroit. If so, Lobstein will likely be transferred to the bullpen. Until that happens, he remains a key member of Detroit’s rotation.
Apart from Lobstein, the other new additions have so far spent limited time on the diamond.
Detroit’s regular starters are not likely to be rested while the team is in the thick of the playoff hunt. Experimentation with youth may be a feature of non-contending teams in the weeks to come, but the Tigers will probably offer only occasional cameos to their call-ups.
So far, they have made favourable impressions when given opportunities.
Outfielders Tyler Collins and Steven Moya are each 2-for-4, including a three-run homer from Collins in Detroit’s 12-1 rout of Cleveland last Thursday.
Highly touted catcher James McCann made his first big league start over the weekend against San Francisco. The 24-year-old went 0-for-3 but hit the ball hard and looked solid defensively.
Hernan Perez has made a solitary start at shortstop and has been on base twice in four plate appearances.
The only hiccup for the position players has been Collins' missed catch on a fly ball in his only start.
On the pitching side, Kyle Ryan and Buck Farmer—who made their starting debuts in August—have each made a single appearance out of the bullpen in September. These outings were both in mop-up roles during last Friday’s 8-2 defeat to the Giants.
Apart from Lobstein, the September rookies will continue to see only snippets of playing time in the season’s final three weeks.
High-stakes baseball should compel manager Brad Ausmus to use his best 10 players day in and day out. However, the rookies will add depth to the team and be used in strategic matchups. For instance, Ryan will be used to ice opposing left-handed hitters, particularly when Blaine Hardy and Phil Coke need a break.
Moya and Collins are also likely to feature as pinch hitters. Detroit is a right-hand-dominant lineup, so this pair of lefties could be brought off the bench to face some right-handed pitchers. While this is not the most glorified of roles, history shows that pinch hits from unlikely sources can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing big games.
Many will remember Francisco Cabrera—an unknown player at the time—stroking the game-winning hit for the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. Dramatic situations like these may not emerge for the Tigers, but their bench players will get the chance to deliver at some stage.
It must be remembered that, while their game time is limited in the interim, these September call-ups are Detroit's players of the future. Glimpses of their talents this month promise much in the years to come.
But don’t consider them “cheerleaders only” just yet.
If Detroit manages to leapfrog the Kansas City Royals and/or the Seattle Mariners into the playoffs, one or two may join the October party. The ride for this group has only just begun.
All stats in this article are courtesy of MLB.com.