(Photo credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Triston McKenzie will try to complete a very difficult season on a high note when the Cleveland Guardians right-hander starts against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.
McKenzie was expected to be a mainstay on the Guardians' staff this season. Instead, he has pitched in the majors only three times.He sustained an upper teres major muscle strain in spring training and didn't return until early June. After making two starts, McKenzie was sidelined again, this time by a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm.
McKenzie (0-2, 6.17 ERA) finally came back on Sunday, but the outing didn't go well. He lasted just 1 2/3 innings, allowing three runs while walking six batters in a 5-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
"I still feel good now in terms of a health standpoint," McKenzie said after that start. "I was just really unhappy with how the outing itself went. ... I don't think I commanded the zone with my off-speed (pitches) as well as I should have. And the fastball just wasn't in the zone as much as I would like."
Last season, McKenzie walked more than two batters in only three of his 30 starts.
"I don't think I was scared to throw any of my pitches," he said on Sunday. "I just think I just didn't command the zone and they're out there just taking balls."
McKenzie struggled with the idea of coming back this season. A strong performance against the Tigers would give him more peace of mind.
"I think that's the fine line that we toe, especially going out there and wanting to compete and wanting to win," McKenzie said. "It's hard for me to go out there and not be 100 percent in terms of feeling like I can hit my spots consistently. But at the end of the day, I'm happy that my arm feels good now, and I think we move forward from there."
McKenzie is 3-1 with an 0.93 ERA in six career starts against the Tigers.
Cleveland (76-84) won the series opener 7-5 on Friday, halting the Tigers' four-game winning streak.
Detroit (76-84) hadn't announced a starter for Saturday.
The Tigers are saluting designated hitter Miguel Cabrera, who is retiring, throughout the weekend.
Cabrera delivered for the large crowd on Friday night with a three-hit night, including two doubles.
"Looked like he was younger," said Guardians manager Terry Francona, who is also retiring after the series concludes on Sunday. "That's pretty good. Might want to come back if he swings like that."
Cabrera was also hit by a pitch. The only out he made came in the ninth after Spencer Torkelson's 31st homer.
"These games are different," Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. "When he jumps in there and smokes a couple of balls ... he was all over the map today. It was awesome to see him enjoy the game. He, like all of us, just wishes we would have won."
The Tigers announced prior to the game on Friday that Cabrera would remain in the organization as a special assistant to president of baseball operations Scott Harris.
"Right now, I am just focused on my retirement," Cabrera said prior to the game. "Then, I will focus on what I can do for this team. Right now, I don't have anything in mind. My mind is focused on playing these last three games and getting a lot of hits."
--Field Level Media