Heading into the 8th inning the Twins were leading the struggling Detroit Tigers 4-3. Since it was the 8th inning and his team was ahead, Ron Gardenhire did what every other Major League manager would have done and brought in his setup man Jesse Crain. I don’t think Gardenhire considered who was coming up for the Tigers. Rookie Clete Thomas was scheduled to lead off followed by Placido Polanco, Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, and Miguel Cabrera. A one run game with four of the best hitters in the American League scheduled to hit and Gardenhire has his second best relief pitcher in the game! Five batters later, Miguel Cabrera hits a rocket over the left field wall and the Tigers were ahead 6-4.
I don’t fault Gardenhire for the way it turned out. As I wrote in the beginning, he did what every other manager would have done. But even though every manager would have handled it the same way, I don’t understand why. The Twins recently made it clear they consider Joe Nathan their best relief pitcher. They signed him to a multi year $40+ million contract. But the Twins view Nathan’s role as “the closer” and that means he pitches the ninth inning regardless of the score or situation. I don’t see any logic to this approach. Gardenhire should have looked at who was scheduled to hit for the Tigers and not the inning. When it became unavoidable that