DETROIT--Jonah Nickerson stood near the clubhouse door. He was dressed. He was ready to go. But he couldn't leave.
His team, low Class A West Michigan, had defeated Dayton, but that just allowed him to focus on another game, hundreds of miles away. So Nickerson stared at the television, where Oregon State and Cal State Fullerton were battling deep into the night at the College World Series. The Titans were 90 feet from tying it in the ninth, before Nickerson's former teammate Eddie Kunz closed out a 3-2 victory.
Nickerson, a hero for the champion Beavers one year ago, pumped his fist.
"I'm excited just to watch them play on TV," he said. "It's definitely a different team this year."
Nickerson was the most outstanding player of last year's CWS, after throwing 323 pitches in eight days. The Tigers selected him in the seventh round last year and limited his innings at short-season Oneonta last summer. He made five appearances, all out of the bullpen.
Nickerson didn't get as much pro experience as his peers last season, but the 22-year-old says all the pitches in Omaha were "definitely worth it. I didn't put myself in a situation where I was going to hurt myself," he said. "I had plenty of time to rest after I signed, and my arm feels good now. So, it worked out."
Nickerson has been hampered at times by a stiff back this season and entered the Midwest League all-star break at 4-6, 5.80.
"I like his makeup," West Michigan manager Tom Brookens said. "He's a competitor. We just need to see a little more consistency."
Nickerson allowed just two earned runs in a complete game against Cedar Rapids on May 8. Since then, however, he had only one quality start in six tries.
"He's got a good pitcher's body and drive from the lower half," Brookens said. "Whenever Nick gets in trouble, it's because everything's too low."
One possible explanation for the rough stretch: Nickerson's fastball velocity, while never the most important aspect of his repertoire, is down this year. He's throwing at 86-87 mph, instead of 88-89.
"It seems to get better, and more consistent, every outing," he said of his velocity. "It's creeping up slowly."
• The Tigers suspended relief pitcher Roman Colon for seven days in June, following a clubhouse altercation at Triple-A Toledo that left fellow reliever Jason Karnuth with broken bones in his face and in need of surgery. Colon was in Toledo on a rehabilitation assignment from Detroit, following offseason neck surgery.
• Righthander Eulogio de la Cruz, the organization's No. 6 prospect entering the season, made his big league debut for the Tigers at Washington on June 18. He began the year in the rotation at Double-A Erie before earning a promotion to the Toledo bullpen.