Notes: McBride gets his chance
Lefty has opportunity to show his stuff in relief appearances
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tigers acquired Macay McBride in no small part because he had a Minor League option left. Four weeks later, they still haven't had to use it.
McBride didn't know what to expect when he switched clubhouses during the Tigers' visit to Atlanta last month. One way or another, he knew he was going north, either to Detroit or Triple-A Toledo. If it was going to be the latter, however, he wanted to put it off as long as he could for a chance to prove himself.
"I felt if I got a chance to pitch before that decision had to be made, that I could show that I was worth the trade," McBride said. "Obviously, if they had sent me to Triple-A the day they traded for me, I would've completely understood it, because that's the nature of the business. But it's a lot easier to live with if you get a chance and then get sent down.
"I said, 'If I could just get a chance to pitch, I think I'll have that positive impact; that I can show that I've got.' They gave me the opportunity and weren't quick on that, and it's worked out so far."
While McBride hasn't noticed much difference for a reliever coming over from the National League, the American League has noticed the difference in McBride. Through 10 appearances covering eight innings, the control woes and inconsistencies that led to 15 walks in as many innings for the Braves haven't been found. They haven't all been easy innings, but his mistakes have not come back to haunt him, his most recent outing as a good example.
Manager Jim Leyland gave him the eighth inning Tuesday expecting that the Twins would pinch-hit for him, but believing that the lefty would have a better chance at holding a runner at first base. Four pitches into the inning, he had the runner on.
Leyland went out to the mound, usually the prompt for an exit after a four-pitch leadoff walk. Instead, with switch-hitters Nick Punto and Luis Castillo coming up, Leyland gave him a talk and left. Leyland hoped to take away the drag bunt by making Punto bat from the right side, where he hits under .200 this year, but he also showed some trust in McBride.
"The thing was set up for him, and we've got to find out," Leyland said.
McBride went with all fastballs to trick up the Twins, but he hit his spots with catcher Ivan Rodriguez. After Punto fouled off back-to-back bunt attempts, he flied out to right. Castillo, weaker against left-handers than right-handers, took a first-pitch ball outside before McBride jammed him into an inning-ending double play. It was his first true eighth-inning setup situation since last year, when Braves skipper Bobby Cox used him and Tyler Yates in such a role down the stretch.
"Last year was an up-and-down year," McBride said, "and it ended up being a good year for me, just learning stuff."
He learned to go after hitters, thanks to an unlikely eighth-inning meltdown against the Red Sox. He began the eighth by striking out David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, but a two-out walk to Trot Nixon set up his downfall. He promptly walked Jason Varitek, then gave up an RBI single to Coco Crisp that knocked him out of the game. It ended up a six-run eighth for the Red Sox in a 10-7 Braves loss.
He was statistically a better pitcher after the All-Star break last year than before it, and he's hoping for the same this summer. The Tigers are going to give him a chance.
"We like his stuff," Leyland said. "He hasn't pitched a whole lot, kind of gotten him in and out. I don't know to this day whether he's a starter or reliever, to be honest with you, but he's doing OK. He's getting his feet wet with us. I think he's doing a good job."
McBride was back on the mound in the eighth inning Wednesday, this time for a spot appearance against Joe Mauer, whose fly ball to left drew Marcus Thames' diving catch.
Shooting past the Shooter: Todd Jones' seven-pitch ninth inning Tuesday earned him his 287th career save, pushing him past the late Rod Beck for 22nd on the all-time list. Jones said a few weeks ago that his 300th save would be a big milestone for him, and he repeated it Wednesday. But as far as his place on the list, he said it would be "cool" to match Rich "Goose" Gossage with 310.
"He was the first guy that made closing sexy," Jones said Wednesday afternoon before saving a 3-2 decision that night. "I don't translate on any level with him."
By that, he means he was never the fireballing closer like Gossage or others.
"I was never the blond at the end of the bar that everybody wanted to talk to," he said.
His 300th save, he said, won't be as much about the number as the journey he took to get there, including the two years between saves from 2002-2004. He has kept a ball, he estimates, from all but 15 of his saves.
"It's a growing piece of art," he said.
Rough rehab for Byrdak: Lefty reliever Tim Byrdak gave up three runs on four hits in one-third of an inning on Wednesday in his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Toledo.
Byrdak, on the 15-day disabled list since June 27 with left elbow tendinitis, joined the Mud Hens on Tuesday in Norfolk and was scheduled to throw an inning. He gave up a home run leading off the sixth, followed by back-to-back singles. After a strikeout of right-handed-hitting Einar Torres, a J.R. House single knocked him out of the game with 23 pitches thrown.
Byrdak is slated to throw two innings of relief on Saturday.
Help wanted: With a doubleheader set for Tuesday at Chicago and no day off for another two weeks, Leyland said the team will call up a starter for one of those Tuesday contests. He did not name candidates, but both Yorman Bazardo and Jordan Tata are on a schedule at Triple-A Toledo where they could make such an appearance on four or five days' rest.
Bazardo gave up six runs on 11 hits over five innings Wednesday night. Tata is scheduled to start Thursday afternoon. Both are on the 40-man roster. Dallas Trahern would also be on schedule, starting Thursday for Double-A Erie, but he has cooled off somewhat after two dominant months for the SeaWolves.
Coming up: The Tigers close out their road trip on Thursday afternoon with a 1:10 p.m. ET start against the Twins at the Metrodome. Jeremy Bonderman (10-1, 3.50) and Scott Baker (4-3, 5.43) will meet in a rematch of their nationally televised July 1 duel at Comerica Park, which ended up a 1-0 Tigers win.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.