Big day for Bouchie

Technically, reliever Brayan Villarreal was the only Tiger getting his first day in the big leagues on Thursday. But the look on new bullpen catcher Andy Bouchie suggests differently. He’s a long way from independent ball in Long Beach, California.

“It wasn’t the way I thought I’d get here,” he said, “but I’ll take it.”

The Tigers haven’t needed a second bullpen catcher for years. When they decided not to go with a dedicated backup catcher after Alex Avila and Victor Martinez, however, they needed one for when two relievers need to warm up at the same time. They didn’t want to make bullpen coach Jeff Jones do it with his surgically repaired knees, and they can’t always count on Don Kelly being in the dugout in the late innings, since he might be in the game.

By chance, primary bullpen catcher Scott Pickens was around a minor league game on the back fields at Tigertown this spring. Bouchie was around and just asked for conversation how somebody gets a job like his.

Two days later, the Tigers came to him with an idea. He had to give up his playing career, but he’d get to the big leagues. He didn’t ponder it long.

“I did everything I could as a baseball player,” said Bouchie, who split last year between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. “It wasn’t for lack of hard work. I have no regrets. I had fun.”

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