DETROIT - Robert Fick hit one for his sister, making his family proud.
Fick blasted a game-winning, solo home run in the 10th inning last night to lead the Detroit Tigers to a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins. It cleared the scoreboard in right-center field for his second homer of the season.
Fick's family had to persuade him to play on the day of his sister's funeral. Carolyn Mitchell, 52, died last Saturday of a ruptured colon.
Fick originally planned to return home to California for the funeral, but his family talked him out of it. Instead, he kept playing without making the story public.
“They knew that I've been waiting my whole career for a chance to play every day, and I finally have it,” he said. “They told me that there was nothing I could do there - I should stay here and hit a home run for her. I didn't want to talk about it, but after tonight, I wanted to tell the story.
“I didn't hit that ball - my sister and my dad [who died previously] did,” Fick said.
Another storyline emerging last night involved Detroit pitcher Seth Greisinger, who missed the entire 2000 and 2001 seasons with a gimpy right elbow.
The long journey back to the big leagues finally arrived last night when he stepped on the hill against Minnesota before an announced crowd of 16,394 at Comerica Park.
How Greisinger's surgically repaired right elbow would hold up during his first major league start since Sept. 26, 1998, was a major concern.
Greisinger, who was called up yesterday from Double-A Erie, couldn't have expected to perform much better than he did against the Twins (14-9). He lasted five innings, allowing only two runs on six hits while striking out five and walking two. He threw 78 pitches with 46 called for strikes.
“He really threw the ball well tonight,” Detroit manager Luis Pujols said. “The report we got [from Erie] was that he was throwing well.
“I thought if we could have got five or six innings out of him that would have been great.”
Before last night's effort Greisinger last pitched in the majors when the Tigers still played in Tiger Stadium.
“The layoff probably seemed shorter than it really was because I'm here now,” Greisinger said. “But it's been a long time. I'm three years older and there's a new ballpark. The first game I pitched in the minors made it [coming back] worthwhile just to be out there competing again.
“This [game] was kind of just a reward and, hopefully, I can keep going. Hopefully, I will keep on improving and pitching well.”
Fick, who had two key hits in the game, has recorded a hit in 15 of the Tigers' last 17 games. But his game-winning homer off Bob Wells couldn't have come at a more appropriate time for Detroit (5-16).
Fick said he didn't step in the batter's box during the extra inning looking to win the game with one swing of the bat. He didn't even think the ball would float over the fence after he connected on a 3-1 pitch.
“This park is so big I was thinking triple, trying to get on for Bobby [Higginson],” Fick said. “Then next thing you know I saw it went out and I was fired up.”
Minnesota right-hander Rick Reed left the game sitting on a 2-1 lead after seven steady innings of work.
Fick led off the eighth with a single. Bobby Higginson and Randall Simon followed with back-to-back bunt singles to load the bases with no outs. However, the Tigers squandered a potentially big inning and had to settle for tying the score at 2 when Shane Halter hit into a double play, allowing Fick to score from third. Craig Paquette flied out to end the inning.
Detroit's Matt Anderson (2-1) earned the decision, giving up two hits and a run over two innings.
Before yesterday's game the Tigers made a pair of moves that affected the Mud Hens.
First, the Tigers placed first baseman Dmitri Young on the disabled list and called up outfielder Craig Monroe. Young has been diagnosed with a small hernia in his groin.
This is the second time Detroit has promoted Monroe. He joined the Tigers on April 17 but saw action as a defensive replacement for two innings of one game before returning to the Hens Monday.
Monroe has hit .281 for Toledo with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 16 games.
The Tigers also optioned outfielder Andres Torres to Toledo.
Torres appeared in 10 games for Detroit, hitting .211 with three RBIs. He played in the Hens' first three games this season, batting .083 with a stolen base.
John Wagner and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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