Danville, Kentucky---Kyle Lobstein occupies a precarious position within the Tigers clubhouse. As a spot-starter filling in for the injured Justin Verlander, he has immense shoes to fill. During his pre-game internal monologues, the bespectacled crustacean frequently reminds himself that his time in the majors is potentially finite, just as my kids undoubtedly persevere my miserable company by remembering that they only have to stay in my filthy, beer-can littered apartment on weekends. Kyle finds no such reassurance in his status as an interloper, however. Sometimes, the pressure feels too much, as if he is a sea-food item being cooked in a super-heated culinary apparatus of some sort.
Today is one of those days where the Lobster will feel especially pressured. Following last night’s all-too-familiar bullpen implosion, Kyle has the unenviable task of toeing the rubber in a game that could see the Tigers swept out of Chicago, swept harder than the broken glass that coats my apartment floor following the routine break-ins that occur when I forget to pay my bookie in Louisville.
Today, Kyle Lobstein will answer the challenge and lead the Tigers to a 5-4 victory over Chicago. He will pitch 6 and 2/3rd quality innings, delivering the ball to a frail Tigers bullpen that will just barely manage to not squander another game. Lobstein will be backed up by a reawakened Tigers offense which will tag Jose Quintana for several runs and tag the White Sox bullpen for several more.
As he packs up his belongings following the game, Lobstein, peering from behind his rectangular glasses, will notice Justin Verlander lingering in the clubhouse and staring with cold, stern eyes at the nameplate posted above his locker. Many players have come and gone from this locker room since 2006, when Verlander took the team to its first World Series in decades and won rookie of the year. Lobstein knows better than to get comfortable in this clubhouse, and like many Detroit Tigers prospects and role players keeps a travel bag packed in his apartment in case of the eventuality that Dombrowski trades him for a relief pitcher that won’t pan out.
Yet, for all the instability in the clubhouse, Lobstein will find security in the fact that Verlander remains, and will continue to remain. The time is approaching for Verlander to return from the disabled list and either fulfill his destiny or enter the twilight years of his career having failed to do so. Even though Lobstein knows Verlander’s return might herald his own exit from this plot-line, he can’t help but look at the autumnal God and feel hope and inspiration swell within his crustacean heart.