Bottom of the seventh. Two outs, one on. The bullpen has been worked hard, and the Detroit Tigers are clinging to a one run lead. There's a fastball-craving slugger coming up for the opposition.
Enter Danny Worth, knuckleballing reliever?
Most will dismiss the theory that Worth, a part-time pitcher at best and a utility infielder could stand up to the pressure of a tense late inning situation on the mound such as that. As the classic thinking goes, Worth is too inexperienced, doesn't know how to hold runners or command his pitches and would serve up batting practice in the late innings that would cost his team the game.
Still, Worth has something valuable in his right arm. Last weekend against the Texas Rangers, the knuckleball pitcher impressed, striking out two in his first major league appearance on Thursday. Then on Saturday, Worth found himself in a trouble spot, but pitched around it, surrendering only one run. Despite the lopsided score and situation, it was an impressive showing from that standpoint.
After Thursday's appearance, Ausmus hinted that Worth would continue to work on pitching and throwing bullpen sessions, saying they wanted to keep him as a potential "trump card." By Saturday, the tune had changed just a bit.
"You don't want to turn it into a carnival sideshow," Ausmus commented after Worth had pitched in his second consecutive laugher. Given the score was out of control late, the fans that remained wanted to see some type of excitement, and rallied around Worth's return to the mound as comic relief; the only thing to cheer on a bad, boring day at the ballpark.
Reading between the lines of the quotes, it's possible that Ausmus means the next time Worth is used, the situation might be just a bit different or more intense. Detroit could be trailing by only a few runs, or even have a lead. It would be the quickest way to see what Worth had in the tank, and find out if he could become that trump card referenced earlier.
Most of all, Worth's return to the game would no longer signal the appropriate time for laughter or mock applause. It might be the best possible way to help the experience avoid a carnival feel and take on a more serious approach.
With as cerebral an outlook as Ausmus maintains, don't be surprised if Saturday's honest quote about Worth ends up symbolizing something a bit more in the end.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.Tags: Baseball, Brad Ausmus, Danny Worth, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, MLB