Leyland ‘thrilled’ about Humber’s perfect game

DETROIT — Jim Leyland knows all too well the heartbreak of a pitcher being one out from history and having the moment taken away from him. That might be partly why the Tigers’ skipper said Sunday he was “thrilled” and “glad” the umpire called strike three to give White Sox pitcher Philip Humber the 21st perfect game in Major League history.

“I was thrilled for the kid,” Leyland said. “I’m absolutely thrilled for him.”

The debate can go either way. When Humber made a 3-2 pitch to Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan, on first glance, it seemed like Ryan might have checked his swing and earned a walk with two outs in the ninth. Home-plate umpire Brian Runge quickly ruled that Ryan went around.

“I couldn’t really tell on the TV if he really went or not,” Leyland said. “It looked real close.”

The moment brought back memories of Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game on June 2, 2010, in the Tigers’ clubhouse. in that game, Galarraga threw 8 2/3 perfect innings before a blown call at first base by umpire Jim Joyce spoiled the celebration and sparked controversy in the Motor City.

DETROIT — Thad Weber wasn’t one of the prospects considered for the fifth rotation spot in Spring Training. he wasn’t even one of the first pitchers to be called up this season. yet, Sunday he found himself making his Major League debut in the top of the 11th inning against the best-hitting lineup in the big leagues.

Weber, who was recalled from Triple-A Toledo about 24 hours prior, took the mound with the game deadlocked at 2 in the top of the 11th against the Rangers. he loaded the bases with no outs before Alberto Gonzalez laid down a disputed suicide squeeze to make it 3-2, which proved to be the game-winning run. The replay showed the ball clearly hit off the back of Gonzalez’s leg and it should have been ruled a foul ball.

“I really didn’t [see it],” Weber said. “Brandon [Inge] was coming in, and he was yelling. It really was just kind of a weird play. Brandon was coming in yelling something, and Alex [Avila] was coming in yelling something, and it was just kind of all over the place.”

After letting up the run, Weber got a double play and a groundout to end the inning. he ended up being charged with the loss.

“A little bit of a crazy play right there, but bottom line is I got to make better pitches,” Weber said. “That’s a big ballgame for us, and to lose it like that’s a little disappointing.”

The 27-year-old has been in the Tigers’ farm system since 2008, and has only pitched in relief twice. Weber has been a solid starter, with a 2-0 record and 0.75 ERA in two starts with Triple-A Toledo this season, striking out 15 in 12 innings.

He doesn’t have the bullpen experience, but he believes the adrenaline of warming up in front of the fans will be enough to carry him. Although he said it rattled him a bit early.

“I came out a little over-anxious,” he said. “I kind of expected it, but once I got into it, I calmed down and made some good pitches. Left a few breaking balls up, but I was glad once everything happened I was able to settle down.”

DETROIT — Jose Valverde threw three split-finger pitches during his 30-pitch ninth inning Saturday night. As much as he doesn’t want to make an excuse for it, with temperatures dipping into the 40s as the game went on, he didn’t have the grip to throw it with any command.

“I can throw my split-finger anytime I want to,” Valverde said. “But yesterday, I think it was best [not to throw it that often].”

The three he threw were pretty good. they all went to the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton, the last two drawing swings and misses to strand the potential tying run on second base, seal Valverde’s fourth save of the year and salvage a doubleheader split with a 3-2 win.

“He’s had trouble with his splitter so far this year,” catcher Alex Avila said, “but I think he found it, because those were pretty nasty.”

It wasn’t much in quantity, but for someone who has been trying to get that pitch back, it was a very good sign for quality.

“When it’s cold,” Valverde said, “every pitch is tough, because your fingers are freezing.”

DETROIT — with his appearance in the seventh inning of Game 2 of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader against the Rangers, right-handed relief pitcher Octavio Dotel became the 93rd pitcher in Major League history to appear in 700-plus games.

“It’s good to get to that point,” Dotel said Saturday. “It’s good to hit the mark. thank God for giving me the opportunity to make it to this point. I don’t know how many more are coming up, but at this point, I feel really good.”

The 38-year-old reliever took over after Justin Verlander’s six innings and picked up right where he left off, throwing a scoreless seventh. The Tigers went on to win, 3-2.

“I was kind of nervous tonight, because I’ve seen what they’ve been doing in the first two games [against] the good pitchers we’ve got,” Dotel said. “Look at Verlander. He’s been throwing eight innings every time he goes out there, and tonight he barely made it to six.”

The 700 appearances wasn’t the only history Dotel has made this season. on April 7, Dotel became the first player in Major League history to appear with 13 teams.

• Manager Jim Leyland said the decision to start Justin Verlander in the day or night game Saturday came down to pitching coach Jeff Jones’ opinion that the night game would be better. Leyland originally left the choice to Verlander, who said he’d be fine with whatever they wanted. “I’d feel good starting him at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Leyland said.

• Doug Fister remains sidelined trying to work his way back from a left rib cage strain. he said no throwing session has been scheduled yet.

• Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel and backup catcher Gerald Laird, who were on last year’s World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, received their World Series rings from former manager Tony La Russa on Sunday. La Russa personally presented them in a pregame ceremony Sunday at Comerica Park while a handful of players from the Rangers, the team the Cardinals beat in seven games in the Fall Classic, warmed up in right field.

• Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw out Sunday’s ceremonial first pitch. The former Texas high school teammate of Dodgers great Clayton Kershaw fired a strike to Tigers starter Adam Wilk.

Leyland ‘thrilled’ about Humber’s perfect game

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