Lakeland, Fla. — Both almost certainly will be with the Tigers at some point this season, but for now infielder Isaac Paredes and catcher Jake Rogers will be finishing their spring training at the club’s minicamp.
Both were optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday and sent to the club’s minicamp. In addition, veteran non-roster infielder Greg Garcia also was informed that he did not make the team. He has until Saturday to exercise an opt-out clause or report to mini-camp.
“The message was, the competition didn’t go their way and they have work to do,” manager AJ Hinch said of his meeting Rogers and Paredes. “We feel they are both going to play for us in the big leagues this season when we need them.
“We just don’t feel the right time is Opening Day. It’s tough to deliver that news because they care a lot. But we were honest with them. They lost out in the competition.”
Hinch also announced Thursday that Grayson Greiner had won the backup catcher job.
“As much as we talk about Jake and what he did and didn’t do, the focus is really that Greiner won the backup job,” Hinch said. “He was the most consistent and outperformed everybody.
“This was more pro-Greiner than anti any of the other guys.”
Hinch spoke to both Dustin Garneau and Eric Haase on Thursday morning, as well. Although they will begin the season at the alternate site in Toledo, both will remain in big league camp until the team heads north.
“With Jake behind the plate, I love the adjustments he made this spring,” Hinch said. “I thought he cleaned up his catching and some of his habits back there. He blocked well, he received well and he adapted to our game-calling plan.
“He did everything behind the plate that we asked.”
But the offensive is still a struggle. He went 3 for 22 with 10 strikeouts this spring.
“We have to find a way for him to contribute offensively and that comes with his swing,” Hinch said. “He knows the strike zone and he generally swings at the right pitches. But his contact rate and his one-dimension style as a hitter — you either have to get really good at it and do damage or you have to find a way to move the ball back into the field of play,”
Hinch said Rogers, big-league hitting coaches Scott Coolbaugh and Jose Cruz, Jr., plus Triple-A hitting coach Mike Hessman will be meeting this weekend to map out an offensive plan.
Paredes, 22, who made his big-league debut last year at third base, made an impressively smooth transition to second base this spring, as Hinch looked to give him another avenue to make the 26-man roster.
But his bat, so hot this winter in Mexico, went cold. He was just 4 for 32 this spring after slashing .379/.480/.579 in the Mexican Winter League.
“He really impressed us with how he adapted to second base and we want him to continue there and at third,” Hinch said. “I wouldn’t even mind if he got some reps at shortstop as a back-up plan to eat innings, the way I manipulate guys around the infield.
“He just struggled with the bat, for no real rhyme or reason. He’s got to go down and get a little more comfortable offensively. We’re looking for something with just a little more consistency. We know he can hit, he’s hit at every level.”
Hinch would not tip his hand about how the rest of the infield spots might fall. The presumption was Paredes and non-roster first baseman Renato Nunez were fighting for one possible roster spot, depending on how many pitchers and outfielders the club carries.
That may not have been the case.
Utility man Harold Castro has begun to heat up at the plate and he’s played well at all four infield spots. He’s put himself in position should the Tigers decide to carry a second utility player with Niko Goodrum.
“He’s a valuable piece,” Hinch said of Castro. “He helps the roster function correctly. That’s one of the reasons he’s still in the mix. Because you can do a lot of things with him. And you can rely on solid contact.
“He finds ways to get hits. You can talk about OPS and a lot of different things, but guys that get hits are pretty valuable at this level.”