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"You would have come in with Lugo after that?"
Gamboa says the loss was the worst he has ever had as a manager. His situation is no different from his players' situation. He would like to be noticed. He would like to move along to the brighter lights someday. This is his chance. He was the Tigers' minor league coordinator at the beginning of the season, moving from team to team in the system. Managing was what he had always wanted to do.
"I started late," he says. "My wife never wanted me to manage because it would take me away for so much time. Those eight-hour bus trips and all of that. I was a scout instead. Then I got divorced. I said to myself, 'Well, why don't I manage now? I've managed in the instructional league. I know all the kids in the system, really, from my other jobs. I've worked with 'em all.' "
The good news is that the Eric Stone Rule has been lifted. Two Tiger officials were at the game. They supposedly told Detroit that Stone needs a little time to settle down. Gamboa may pitch him in a few blowouts, let him try to find control of that high-velocity fastball, and give him time to learn without pressure.
"What we did last night developmentalwise was right, but we're playing each and every game now to win," Gamboa says. "No more rules. We're playing to win."
I ride with his optimism as I watch the game that follows. The circumstances are eerily similar to the circumstances of a night earlier. Rightnowar pitches the eighth but is shaky this time. The Mud Hens take a 6-5 lead into the ninth. Gamboa brings in lefthander Jose Ramos to retire the first Royals batter, then replaces him with Lugo, who handles the final two. Afterward, I stand in the manager's crowded office with the two coaches and the entire Toledo press corps. His name is Duane Schooley, and he works for the Toledo Blade.
"That is the way the game is played," Gamboa says happily. He showers quickly this time. There is no need to stay, to leave anything at the park.
A few days later I call Bill Lajoie, general manager of the Detroit Tigers. I ask about the Eric Stone Rule. He denies that it existed. Then he defends it if it did exist. He asks who said there had been such a rule. I tell him that everybody in the Toledo organization said there was such a rule. There is a pause.
"It's sour grapes," Lajoie says. "Just sour grapes after a loss. The kid didn't lose that game. It went 16 innings. There were other chances to win."