“Putting him on the injured list was more of a reaction to the type of injury to a hitter, where you’re going to shut him down for four or five days regardless of the severity,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “So waiting four or five days to make a decision didn’t seem good for our team, and we were able to add an extra pitcher since we used so many [Wednesday].”
Mazara went 9-for-38 with two home runs and five RBIs in his first 12 games of the season. He was expected to receive more tests Thursday.
As for Mazara’s replacement, the Tigers started Akil Baddoo in right field Thursday. Victor Reyes, Robbie Grossman and the versatile Niko Goodrum are also options in right. Harold Castro can also play the outfield.
Jiménez went 1-3 with a 7.15 ERA in 25 relief appearances for the Tigers last season. He allowed five runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League play this spring, walking three and striking out six.
“It was a very emotional send-down for him, and for us, at the end of spring, so we let him clear the air and go get his work in,” Hinch said. “When he is pounding the strike zone and being free as a competitor, I think he can be really effective for us. The reality is that we were pushing him to be better, and he responded to that very well.”
The significance of Jackie Robinson Day is not lost on Hinch, and he understands it’s much more than a one-day celebration.
“I take a picture of [players wearing No. 42] every year and send it to my kids as a reminder of what his legacy has meant to our game for so many players,” Hinch said. “Then, there’s the reminder of what today’s world is like and that it’s the other 364 days during the year that we need to honor not only Jackie Robinson, but all people of color and all people of all backgrounds.
“It’s not so much about honoring him one day and then check-marking the box and getting to the next day. We need to be better as a world at understanding it’s a year-round obligation as a human to have equality and social justice and make the world a better place for everybody, regardless of race or religion.”
On Wednesday, Hinch, his staff and his players met with members of The Players Alliance, a nonprofit organization founded by a group of active and former MLB players with the goal of improving representations of Black Americans in baseball. The Players Alliance will make a financial commitment to the Jackie Robinson Foundation supporting the launch of a scholarship fund aiming to provide aid to students as soon as the Fall 2021 semester.
“I hope that on Jackie Robinson Day, we can look at more than just baseball and see everything that he did and everything he had to go through and see how things really haven’t changed that much,” Goodrum said. “We have a ways to go.”
Tigers’ protocols change
The Tigers have been cleared to relax COVID-19 protocols for vaccinated players, Hinch announced Thursday afternoon.
Clubs were informed just before Opening Day that MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to relax certain health and safety protocols contained in the 2021 Operations Manual for fully vaccinated Tier 1 Individuals and for clubs where 85% of their Tier 1 Individuals are fully vaccinated. This applies to all players and staff who are considered Tier 1, including those at the alternate site. As part of that memo, players and staff were again strongly encouraged to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible.
“The protocols have been signed off for us to loosen a little bit, with the understanding that it still is something that we need to take seriously,” Hinch said. “It’s still something that we need to pay attention to, because as we’ve seen around the league, it’s still impacting teams. I am proud of our group for being vaccinated and being cleared for the protocols.”
The Tigers worked with corporate sponsor McLaren Health to set up one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccinations in the clubhouse on April 1.
Hinch and Melvin speak
Longtime friends Hinch and A’s manager Bob Melvin speak regularly and did so again by phone prior to Thursday’s game, Hinch’s first visit to Oakland since the sign-stealing scandal that led to his firing as Astros manager in January 2020, as well as a season-long suspension in ’20.
“I just spoke to Bob this morning on something completely separate than I think what you’re probably wondering about,” Hinch said. “It was not about my re-entry into the game or the sign-stealing stuff or the history with the team. I’ve worked with Bob in a couple different ways. I had him when I was in the front office and he was the manager [in Arizona], and then I ended up being the manager right after him. So he and I have known each other a long time, and I have great respect for him.”
Hinch called Melvin last summer during his suspension to apologize for how the scandal impacted the A’s, Melvin personally and the sport as a whole.
“That business was handled last summer,” Hinch said. “Today’s was on a more personal note.”