Detroit Tigers' pitcher Duane Below’s wild week started with demotion and disappointment. It ended with the Britton native’s first two major-league wins.
Duane Below’s wild week started with demotion and disappointment. It ended with the Britton native’s first two major-league wins.
“It’s been crazy,” Below told the Detroit Free Press. “I don’t even know how to explain it. Things change really quickly.”
Last Sunday, Detroit Tigers officials informed Below he did not make the roster and would start the season at Triple-A Toledo. Below cleaned out his locker at Detroit’s spring-training facility in Lakeland, Fla.
The next morning, Below started his 17-hour drive north to Toledo. He arrived Tuesday at 4 a.m.
Below worked out with the Mud Hens, moved into his locker and received a uniform later that day. Meanwhile, Tigers relief pitcher Luis Marte injured his hamstring during an exhibition game, and the Tigers suddenly needed a reliever.
After his workout, Below left the Mud Hens clubhouse and turned his cell phone on. He had a message from Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski.
Below was a Tiger again.
“When you are in the clubhouse, you don’t get a signal,” Below told the Free Press. “When I turned on my phone, I got the message that I called up, or recalled. Mr. Dombrowski called before they got on the team flight.”
Below experienced his first major league Opening Day on Thursday and jogged out to the third-base line during player introductions.
He made his season debut Saturday after another injury.
Tigers starting pitcher Doug Fister suffered a left side strain on his first pitch to Boston Red Sox hitter Ryan Sweeney with two outs in the fourth inning. As Tigers athletic trainer Kevin Rand walked to the mound, Below started warming up.
“We didn’t know the extent of the injury or if he was going to stay in,” Below told MLB. com. “We didn’t know who was going in, so we waited until the phone rang. They said I was in the game. I grabbed my glove, walked up the stairs and then I took off jogging.
“Running to the mound, I was just going through my game plan to make sure I continue to attack the strike zone.”
Below retired his first six batters before Adrian Gonzalez hit a single in the sixth inning — the only hit he allowed in his 2 1/3 scoreless frames. The southpaw threw 21 of his 29 pitches for strikes.
“I was really happy for him and proud of him,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the Detroit News. “That was a tough situation for him. He did an absolute great job.”
Below earned his first big-league victory on national television. Teammates doused him with beer in the clubhouse to celebrate his feat.
“It’s been a dream come true,” Below told the Free Press. “It’s been a journey ever since I got drafted in 2006. Being able to get my first win in the big leagues, it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Below pitched one out Sunday for his second win — even though Leyland said he wouldn't be available.
The Red Sox scored two runs in the top of the 11th inning and had runners on first and third with two outs. Below entered the game to face Gonzalez. The two battled through a nine-pitch at-bat, before Below fanned the All-Star first baseman with a 91 mph fastball.
The Tigers won the game in the bottom half of the inning on Alex Avila's two-run home run.
Below's wild journey could take another turn.
The Tigers have placed Fister on the 15-day disabled list. He will miss at least two starts, and Below appears to be a logical choice to slide into the starting rotation.
Below made two starts for Detroit last season before moving to the bullpen.