When the Detroit Tigers called up Eric Haase last week with Wilson Ramos on the injured list, manager A.J. Hinch made a promise.
“If (Haase) gets hot, I’ll find a spot for him,” said Hinch, a former major league catcher who appreciates the guys who can play behind the plate.
When Ramos was activated Monday, the Tigers decided to stick with three catchers on their roster. The move paid off, as Haase hit two home runs Monday in a 4-1 victory against the host Seattle Mariners.
The teams continue their three-game series Tuesday night in Seattle.
Hinch put all three of his catchers in the starting lineup Monday.
Ramos, who had been sidelined with a lower back strain, was the designated hitter. Jake Rogers was behind the plate and Haase made his first career start in left field.
Haase led off the second inning with a homer off Mariners left-hander Yusei Kikuchi to open the scoring and went deep off right-hander Brady Lail in the ninth to cap it.
“I’ve managed a lot of games here as the visiting manager,” said Hinch, formerly skipper of the AL West’s Houston Astros. “To test both gaps like that, you’ve got to be a grown man.”
Haase, a Detroit native who has played in just 30 games over four major-leagues seasons with Cleveland and the Tigers, caught Hinch’s eye in spring training.
“I noticed an offensive player and a pretty good athlete,” Hinch said. “He was on the outside looking in on the catching competition, but as we moved him around the field, we became a little more curious on how he could be a fit on the major league level in a variety of roles.
“He’s never gotten at-bats (in the majors), but his minor league track record is warranted. … The more he hits, the more that some doors will open up for him.”
The Tigers, who have won six of their past eight games, will turn to right-hander Spencer Turnbull (2-2, 3.91 ERA) on Tuesday. Turnbull is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in one career start against Seattle.
In his last start, Turnbull allowed one run on six hits over 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts in a 4-3 victory against Kansas City.
“It’s just such a different mentality when you start winning,” Turnbull said. “It’s just been a little bit since we’ve had that feeling.”
The Mariners, who had a three-game winning streak snapped Monday, are set to counter with right-hander Justin Dunn (1-1, 3.72), who will be facing the Tigers for the first time.
Dunn has some of the best numbers on the Mariners’ starting staff, but is averaging fewer than five innings per appearance.
Dunn lasted just 3 1/3 innings in a 7-1 loss to the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers last Wednesday.
“We certainly knew (Wednesday’s) game would be a challenge for Justin Dunn,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We had a pretty good idea the Dodgers would be very patient and grind him out. I thought his stuff was really good. Fastball had a lot of life, the breaking balls were really good, but he ran into trouble there in the fourth inning with a couple of walks and it kind of got away from him a little bit.”
–Field Level Media