In the form of Danny Worth's knuckleball, manager Brad Ausmus found a diamond on a rough day for the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Worth, the Tigers backup shortstop, made his professional debut at pitcher Thursday afternoon, striking out two in a scoreless ninth inning with his team on the wrong end of a blowout by the Texas Rangers.
Worth said teammate Max Scherzer had been "begging" him for a while to work on the knuckler in the bullpen. Not just for entertainment value, apparently. Worth was so effective that Ausmus suggested he practice every 10-14 days in case the team needs him to pitch in a game again again. Practice also would help lessen the impact of cramping in Worth's fingers, which he felt as the pitches accumulated.
"Just throwing a 'pen every once in a while might alleviate that," Ausmus said, adding that having Worth throw every two weeks or so might be a good idea in case his services are again needed "on a very part-time basis."
Texas, which won 9-2, already had built a big lead by the fifth inning when Ausmus told Worth he might pitch to help ease the burden on Detroit's tired bullpen. A few innings later, he was on the mound for real. Getting astonishing movement on his knuckler, Worth struck out Michael Choice swinging and caught Leonys Martin looking to end the frame. He also lamented a bad pitch — an 88 mph fastball — that Chris Gimenez hit for a single.
"I wish I didn't throw that heater to Gimenez," Worth said. "I wish I could have that one back."
Although three other Tigers relievers tossed scoreless appearances, Worth's effort might have been best of all. The reactions to Worth's success by teammates in the dugout were almost as entertaining as his performance. It's pretty much the only way a team losing by seven runs is going to have fun legally during a game. Regardless, a few guffaws on the bench in a blowout aren't as important as becoming a viable option as an emergency pitcher, maybe-kinda-sorta.
And, even though it was one outing — his first as a pitcher since high school a decade ago — Worth, 28, is keeping a second major league career as a knuckleballer in mind for someday. It's worth a shot, right?
For now, though, he's content to just play with the pitch that he's been working on since he was 10 while playing catch — unless, of course, his team needs him.
"Hopefully not though," he said. "I wish I wasn't out there. I wish we were ahead. But it was a blast."
Added Ausmus: "I think a lot of the pitchers in the dugout were jealous. His strikeouts-to-innings ratio is pretty good."
He's a .238/.300/.306 carer hitter in 282 plate appearances over parts of five seasons with the Tigers. His skills lie more on defense. And, apparently, the mound.
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