By Will Burchfield
Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was asked if he was edgy on Saturday morning in anticipation of Jordan Zimmermann’s debut.
The Tigers need the right-hander to help anchor the rotation this year and he’s coming off an injury-riddled season and a bumpy spring training. But Ausmus’ thoughts were elsewhere.
“I was even more edgy last night,” he said, “when Kyle Ryan’s flight got cancelled.”
Ryan was on paternity leave in Florida for the birth of his first biological child, a girl named Kynlee Dee. He was set to return to Detroit on Friday night, but his travel plans were quickly thrown out of whack when, as Ausmus said, “something happened with his flight.”
“There was pilots and a plane but no flight attendants,” he explained, “so they canceled it.”
Things were made all the more complicated by the fact that every flight from either Tampa or Orlando to Detroit was booked through the weekend.
“They couldn’t find him a flight to Detroit until Monday,” Ausmus said. “I don’t know, spring break, people coming back Saturday, Sunday.”
So the Tigers manager, already in need of reinforcements in the bullpen, texted Ryan an idea.
“I told him, ‘Box yourself up and come FedEx because we need you in the ‘pen (on Saturday),'” Ausmus laughed.
The Tigers used four relievers on Friday, including closer Francisco Rodriguez for four outs, and will likely be without Anibal Sanchez today, as he threw over 60 pitches in mop-up duty on Thursday. They also sent Blaine Hardy to Triple-A Toledo to make room for Ryan on the roster, so it’s crucial that Ryan makes it to the ballpark in time for Saturday’s game.
He’s en route from Columbus, via car. Ausmus couldn’t help but chuckle when he mentioned that last part.
“I think he flew from Tampa to Columbus, and now he’s in a car,” Ausmus said.
What a trip — as if welcoming a newborn baby into the world wasn’t enough.
Asked if Ryan will be available to pitch this afternoon, Ausmus glanced at his watch and replied, “If he’s here.”
Per MLB rules, the limit for paternity leave is three days, so the Tigers had no choice but to activate Ryan on Saturday.
“Somebody had to be sent out for Ryan coming back, or Ryan had to be sent out,” Ausmus said. “We had already sent Hardy out when the flight got cancelled.”
The left-handed Ryan, coming off a season in which he posted a 3.04 ERA over 56 appearances, figures to be a key cog in Detroit’s bullpen this season.