The memories have faded and remain distant.
Yet, first impressions still linger and the recollections remain packed with what could have been.
When Detroit Tigers’ right-hander Max Scherzer walked into Chase Field Monday afternoon, he almost took the wrong turn and headed down the hall to the Diamondbacks clubhouse. That’s where the Tigers’ 2014 Cy Young Award winner made his major league debut and a continuing dialogue still remains among fans and pundits what might have happened if there was no trade.
That transaction occurred on December 9, 2009 when Scherzer, off a 9-11 season, 4.12 ERA and 174 strike outs in 170.1 innings with Arizona, was dealt to Detroit as part of a three-team deal. As part of the trade, the Diamondbacks acquired eight-hander Ian Kennedy from the Yankees and New York acquired Curtis Granderson from the Tigers.
Now in his fifth season with Detroit, Scherzer said his time in the desert has faded and he is thoroughly acclimated to Detroit. In fact, he said, he would have it no other way.
“It’s fun coming back here but I absolutely love Detroit,” he said in the Tigers’ clubhouse prior to Monday’s game with the Diamondbacks. “This is really a great team, with great players and we have so much fun. Don’t get me wrong, once the game starts we’re all business, but it’s a great atmosphere here.”
Selected by the D-backs on the first round, and the 11th overall pick, in the June, 2006 draft out of the University of Missouri, Scherzer arrived in the desert with an blazing fast ball and upbeat personality. Though he recorded a 9-15 record over parts of two seasons, the Diamondbacks decided on a change and Scherzer was moved.
Still, his fast ball and demeanor was hard to ignore.
“When he got here, he had that electric arm,” said Diamondbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson, who was the D-backs bench coach when Scherzer pitched in Arizona. “Very smart and very observant. He always had that electric arm but what’s made him so good is development of secondary pitchers.”
Save a very good fast ball, Scherzer acquired the ability to get batters to swing through pitchers. Plus, the native of St. Louis crafted a curve ball two years ago, and that went along with his fast ball and slider. Development of the curve, Scherzer said, “allows me to be more effective against left-handed hitters.”
While he always had to ability to blow a fast ball past hitters, Scherzer has added necessary variables to his arsenal.
“First, he’s been able to hone in on his command,” said Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila. “Also, his mechanics have improved. He now has the ability to be consistent on almost every pitch, and that’s important. He’s developed secondary pitchers and for Max, that’s been the key.”
Overall, Scherzer’s run in Detroit has been impressive.
Since donning the old English “D” on his uniform, Scherzer has compiled a 75-33 mark, including an 11-3 record and a 3.34 ERA in 20 starts this season. His history in Detroit includes includes two All-Star appearances (including the winner in the 2014 mid-summer classic), appearances in three American League Championship Series and one start in the 2012 World Series against the Giants.
Since he started this past Saturday at home against Cleveland, he will miss the Diamondbacks.
“No big deal, it is what it is,” he said. “I’d like to face them, but it won’t happen.”
With frequent player movement, Scherzer said the only current Arizona player with whom is stays in touch is catcher Miguel Montero, adding, “we both came up at the same time.”
While Scherzer retains found memories of his first introduction to baseball at the Major League level in Phoenix, Detroit is now home and he continues to thrive among productive players and a winning tradition.
WATCH OUT FOR THE HOT BAT
Coming into the three game set with the Diamondbacks, Miguel Cabrera is hitting lifetime .346 (47-for-136) against Arizona. That includes 11 doubles, 10 home runs, 34 RBIS in 38 career games. That includes part of five seasons with the Marlins.
In inter-league play this season, the Tigers are 2-3. They split two games against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium and then dropped two-of-three to the Padres in San Diego in early April.
After this series at Arizona, the Tigers have National League Western Division series left at home against the Rockies and Giants.