MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Lobstein just what the doctor ordered

Lobstein just what the doctor ordered

DETROIT -- It was only one game Thursday, but it felt like the Detroit Tigers won twice.

There was the dramatic 3-2 walk-off victory over the New York Yankees that put the Tigers into a tie with the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card spot. And the victory gave the Tigers a three-game lead over the Yankees in the same race.

That was undeniably large. But Detroit might have also discovered a fifth starter who can pitch competently, competitively, maybe even successfully.

Kyle Lobstein, making his first Major League start, gave the Tigers a genuine chance to win, working six innings and giving up two runs, only one of them earned. It was a far better performance than Detroit had recently received from other rotation fill-in candidates, Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer.

"He was outstanding," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He threw strikes, for the most part. They put the ball in play, he got outs. I'll take six innings and two runs from just about anyone, but I'll take that from Kyle Lobstein every time out."

With uncertainty surrounding Anibal Sanchez's return from a strained right pectoral muscle, Detroit was in serious need of another starter to give the club a fighting chance at success in that rotation spot. Lobstein filled that role splendidly on Thursday.

After the game, Lobstein was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. That was a move made to get more pitching help for this weekend, with four games in three days in Chicago. The Tigers purchased the contract of reliever Evan Reed from Toledo and announced that Kyle Ryan would start the second game of Saturday's day-night doubleheader against the White Sox.

But with Monday's roster expansion, Lobstein will be returning to Detroit in a matter of days. It would be reasonable to expect that he would start Tuesday night against the Indians in Cleveland.

When asked if Lobstein had done anything to hurt his chances for making a second start, Ausmus said: "Nope."

Lobstein understands the situation perfectly, seeing that what appears to be a demotion is only that in a technical sense. The trip back to Toledo is a procedural move. He has earned a return trip to the big leagues.

"The expectation is to come back up and get a start or whatever the role may be," Lobstein said. "Whatever they need, that's the key component here. They're in a big race here and things are tight in the division. Any chance I can get, no matter what the situation is or the role is, I just want to be able to help out."

The left-hander helped out in a big way on Thursday. Lobstein, 25, put on a remarkably composed performance against the Bronx Bombers, allowing only four hits and one walk. He does not have overpowering stuff, but he had good command and effectively changed speeds in this game.

"He's not a guy that's going to wow you with anything or strike out a lot of guys, but he's a guy who's going to throw strikes," said Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who supplied the game-winning hit. "He's fearless up there. He's going to change speeds and pitch to contact and try to induce weak contact. The way he threw today was exactly what I expected. He did a great job."

Lobstein said he was helped by getting a long-relief stint in Minnesota last Saturday, prior to making his debut as a starter.

"It helped out a lot, to see Major League hitters and get a feel for what they're doing and get a feel for the umpires, too," Lobstein said.

There was the race for the postseason, there was the hoopla of Derek Jeter's last regular-season game in Detroit, and there were plenty of family and friends on hand. Lobstein's father is originally from Michigan, although Lobstein himself grew up in Flagstaff, Ariz. There were a lot of reasons to become overexcited. But Lobstein remained composed, composed enough to keep the Yankees in check for six innings.

"You have to treat it like any other day, just stay focused and stay calm," he said.

That may have been easier said than done.

"After warming up in the bullpen, after walking to the dugout, I was just looking around and I had a big smile on my face," Lobstein said, with another smile on his face. "I was just trying to take it all in, and I can't compare it to any other feeling that I've had."

The big thing here, for both Lobstein and the Tigers, was that he felt terrific not only before the game, but after the game as well. He has a real chance to provide the pitching help that Detroit needs.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.