Wild week and a half for Miner
Eight days ago, Zach Miner walked into the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park and found out he was the Tigers’ emergency starter. Eighty-two pitches on day’s rest followed.
Two days ago, Miner was flying back home to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their second son, Jackson. Mother and baby are doing fine, by the way.
Yesterday, Miner was sitting in the airport at West Palm Beach for five hours while a maintenance crew drove down a spare landing tire from Orlando to put on the plane that would eventually fly him back home. He was worried he’d get in trouble for not getting back to the team in time for Wednesday’s game.
“I was actually more stressed sitting in the airport yesterday,” Miner said. “That was as stressful as anything.”
Today, Miner was quietly a hero in the Tigers’ comeback victory. His two hitless innings after the Mariners scored six runs off Jarrod Washburn gave Detroit a chance to eventually erase the deficit, not to mention, get back to the plate quickly.
Manager Jim Leyland, for one, appreciated it. He has been flustered by Miner at various times, but this wasn’t one of them.
“I wish Zach Miner would realize what a valuable piece he is,” Leyland said, “and I wish he understood how valuable we think he is. He’s a big part, an important part, as is [Fu-Te] Ni. I can’t pitch Perry and Lyon and Seay every day. Today, he was tremendous.”
For his first game outing since that spot start last Wednesday, he was remarkably solid.
Miner arrived at the park in time for extra innings if they happened, but it ended up a moot point. With Justin Verlander on the mound, the Tigers were fine without heavy bullpen use. But just to get his arm fresh, Miner played catch after the game.
Once a 58-minute rain delay Thursday ensured Washburn would’ve last past the sixth inning, those throws came up big for Miner, who hit the strike zone with 17 of his 26 pitches and reached just one three-ball count.
“I felt pretty sharp throwing in the bullpen,” Miner said. “I think throwing last night helped me out a lot.”
As for Leyland’s comments, Miner appreciated them. He hasn’t been shy about his desire to be a Major League starter, and the roller coaster he went on in Spring Training and into April was a rough one for that. Now that he’s in the bullpen, he has far from a defined role, everywhere from mopup to occasional setup to, in Thursday’s case, protecting a one-run deficit.
In his case, it’s nice to be valued.
“I think sometimes you overlook it,” Miner said, “because you sometimes think some people have more important roles than you.”