DETROIT -- Alfredo Simon has a way of keeping people guessing.
On some starts he’s dialed in, dispatching batters and working through an opponent's lineup with efficiency. Other starts, well… not so much.
The maddening lack of consistency from the Detroit Tigers’ most mercurial starting pitcher came on a day the team could ill afford a poor outing. Entering Sunday following three straight extra-inning games -- a string of victories that came at the price of a heavily taxed bullpen -- the Tigers at least needed Simon to provide some longevity.
He did not. Even 4⅓ innings was far too much for the struggling right-hander who was roughed up from the start Sunday and continued to yield hard-hit balls throughout his subpar performance in the club’s 10-3 blowout loss Sunday to the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Simon, who did not speak to reporters after the game, allowed eight runs on 13 hits, three home runs and three walks before forcing manager Brad Ausmus’ hand in the fifth inning.
“He was up. He was up all day long, around the belt. That’s really not what you want, at any time, when you’re pitching,” Ausmus said. “Sometimes you get away with a pop up or a fly ball, but the Royals took advantage of it.”
Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales hit three solo home runs and smoked a triple for 15 total bases on the day -- a club record for the Royals. Morales, who before the series Ausmus identified as one of the best offseason signings of this past year, finished the game 4-for-4 and scored five times. He became the first opposing player to ever hit three home runs in a game at Comerica Park.
“He’s a really good hitter, probably one of the best hitters on their team, so guys are destined to do that sometimes,” Tigers left fielder Tyler Collins said.
Said catcher James McCann:
“It was one of those days you just tip your cap. Three home runs, a triple, a walk, whatever it was, he was feeling it.”
Simon, decidedly, was not, and it was apparent even in the first inning. He gave up two hits to begin the first inning and had surrendered 10 by the end of the third. His pitch count was at 102 before Ausmus replaced him with Jose Valdez with two outs remaining in the fifth. The Tigers desperately needed Simon to eat innings especially with Monday’s doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox looming.
“We were kind of stuck,” Ausmus said after the loss, one that snapped a four-game winning streak.
Both pitchers slated to start Monday’s doubleheader -- Kyle Ryan and Randy Wolf -- have not gone deep into games recently.
Even with some added bullpen depth via September call-ups with the expanded roster, the options were thin Sunday and will be Monday as well.
“I mean, three extra-inning games, back-to-back-to-back, a doubleheader tomorrow -- arms are getting overused right now,” said McCann, one of the only few players position players available for interviews in the clubhouse after the loss. “Even for the month of September. It’s difficult, but it’s part of the game, and we’ve gotta find a way to battle through it.”
Ausmus said there have been internal discussions about additional call-ups, though considering the rust accrued from more than a week layoff for anyone summoned, that option appears unlikely. Kyle Lobstein will be available in the pen. Valdez, even though he threw 1⅔ innings, could potentially provide an inning on Monday. Jeff Ferrell should be available as well.
Though the immediate short-term implications remain, the long-term concerns about Simon’s lack of dependability has to be paramount for the Tigers moving forward. On any given day, the Tigers never know what they are going to get.
“It’s been kind of a seesaw for him. He’s been really good, and then he’s had days where he’s been bad. For whatever reason, it seems like from start to start we weren’t sure which Alfredo would show up,” Ausmus said. “Sometimes he would come out and dominate, and other times he would come out and have trouble getting the ball down in the zone.”
“It’s just inconsistency,” Ausmus said of Simon’s unpredictability. “Can’t really put my finger on it.”