WATCH an interview with Edmonds-Woodway grad Blaine Hardy’s dad Dave here on MyEdmondsNewsTV.com
The Tigers made a roster move on Sunday, but it wasn’t a bullpen shakeup so much as a tweak. Their addition of long reliever Blaine Hardy wasn’t so much a reaction to Saturday’s late-inning Twins rally as it was a pre-emptive move for their upcoming division clashes with the Royals and Indians.
“He’s another left-handed arm,” manager Brad Ausmus said of Hardy. “We’ve got a couple clubs coming in with a number of left-handed hitters. They have some key left-handed bats in their lineups. That gives us some options from the left-hand side.”
Hardy made an impression on Tigers officials as a non-roster invitee in Spring Training, then put up solid numbers at Triple-A Toledo, allowing 35 hits over 47 innings with 13 walks and 53 strikeouts. He had nearly equal success against left- and right-handed hitters.
Those numbers came in six starts and 14 relief appearances. He essentially fills the long-relief role the Tigers had left murky since Luke Putkonen went on the disabled list in mid-April, but he also gives Detroit three lefties in the bullpen for the first time since Drew Smyly was bouncing between fifth starter and extra reliever in April.
It comes at the end of a week in which the Tigers have used Phil Coke for more situational work than long relief, a change from his previous role.
“It probably allows us to use Coke against a lefty earlier,” Ausmus said. “Cokey’s kind of been a guy we go to for two, three [innings] if necessary.”
In other words, Hardy’s arrival doesn’t change a whole lot about the makeup for a bullpen that owns the highest ERA in the Majors this season. Detroit’s key guys are still the same, though Ausmus has more options.
It’s a smaller move, but it’s a huge deal for Hardy, who gets his first Major League callup at age 27 in his seventh professional season. He joined the Tigers last April after the Royals released him in Spring Training, then had to work his way up the system.
His 2013 season opened eyes, as he posted an 8-3 record and a 1.67 ERA as a swingman between Toledo and Double-A Erie. His work included a complete-game one-hitter last August for the Hens, and it earned him a look in camp as a potential lefty reliever or insurance starter.
“It was more a fresh start for me,” said Hardy, who went from a fastball-slider pitcher to more of a finesse lefty with a nasty curveball.
His reward wasn’t just a big league callup, but a Father’s Day trip for his dad. Dave Hardy spent Sunday flying to Detroit from his home in Arizona to see his son in a Major League uniform. His first Major League outing could come against the Royals club that dropped him.
“It’ll be nice to see a lot of guys that I came up with [through the system],” Hardy said. “I still love the Royals. They’re the ones who gave me the initial opportunity. It’ll be good to see all my old friends.”
Hardy had to be added to the 40-man roster, but Detroit had an open spot after outrighting shortstop Danny Worth to Toledo last week. To make room on the 25-man roster, Detroit optioned young reliever Corey Knebel back to Toledo, a few weeks after calling him up for a look.
Hardy, a 2005 Edmonds-Woodway grad, was drafted by the Royals as a junior in the 22nd round out of Lewis-Clark State College (2008), an NAIA powerhouse and perennial national champion, and was on the Lewis-Clark team that won the 2008 national NAIA baseball championship.