The Detroit Tigers are waiting for a full diagnosis, but manager AJ Hinch said he feels cautiously optimistic that left-hander Matthew Boyd — who departed from Thursday’s start in the second inning with left knee tendinitis — won’t miss a significant amount of time.
It remains unclear if Boyd needs a stint on the injured list. The 30-year-old underwent further tests in New York on Friday, ahead of the Tigers’ series opener against the Yankees, and bumped into Hinch on the street while the skipper was picking up his morning coffee.
“I’m not a doctor, but the feedback has been very positive that this is likely to make him miss a start in Boston, may or may not get all the way to that 10-day IL,” Hinch said Friday. “It’s somewhere in that range, which is a lot better than knowing right now that he would immediately be missing multiple starts.”
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Entering Thursday’s game, Boyd had a 1.82 ERA through 34⅔ innings over five starts. But he was charged with two runs on three hits and one walk, with two strikeouts, in one-plus inning against the Chicago White Sox.
In the second inning, Boyd called on Hinch, athletic trainer Doug Teter, pitching coach Chris Fetter and catcher Wilson Ramos for a mound visit. Following a brief conversation, Boyd walked into the clubhouse, 36 pitches into his outing.
“As he was pushing off (the mound), he could feel a little bit of something that felt abnormal,” Hinch said. “So, it’s an immediate removal at that point.”
Boyd has allowed one home run this season, after giving up an American League-leading 39 homers in 2019 and MLB-leading 15 homers in 2020.
“We need Matt Boyd,” Hinch said. “He’s been our best pitcher this season, and I think everybody’s stomach churned a little bit when he motioned for the dugout. Cautiously optimistic that it was a little scare, and he needs a couple days and some rest. But I don’t see a rotation better without him, that’s for sure.”
While discussing his lineup configuration, Hinch mentioned the Tigers are “trying to develop Willi (Castro) at second base a little more regularly, rather than bouncing back and forth” between second base and shortstop.
There’s a chance Castro doesn’t play shortstop against the Yankees.
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The 24-year-old entered the 2021 season as the team’s everyday shortstop, but Hinch has recently turned to utility player Niko Goodrum more often because of Castro’s defensive struggles. Throwing to first base is Castro’s biggest issue, so the Tigers think moving him to second base will ease the pressure.
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Through 23 games, Castro is hitting .207 with one double, two triples, one home run, five RBIs, four walks and 24 strikeouts. Last season, he tied for fourth place in American League Rookie of the Year voting with a .349 batting average in 36 games.
The Tigers are 2-12 in their last 14 games, and starting pitching isn’t the problem. During those 14 contests, the offense is 76-for-420 (.181) with 26 runs, 22 walks and 143 strikeouts.
“We’ve had a month-long look at this,” Hinch said. “I think guys are going to have to step up and do well when they get an opportunity. There’s not a lot of free playing time. If guys are playing well, I’m going to play them.”
During Thursday’s seven-inning doubleheader — 14 innings of work in Chicago — the Tigers went 5-for-47 (.106) with one walk and 22 strikeouts. Detroit lost both games, including an 11-0 beatdown in Game 2.
The Tigers entered Friday with the worst record in baseball, along with the worst batting average (.202), on-base percentage (.260), slugging percentage (.353) and strikeout rate (29.6%). They’re second-worst in walk rate at 7.0%. Former two-time American League MVP Miguel Cabrera is hitting .146 with two home runs and five RBIs in 12 games.
“We need to put guys in the lineup that can be productive, putting up good at-bats, hit the ball hard, find hits,” Hinch said. “I mean, we can’t afford to just sit around and wait and play fairness (with playing time).”
Hinch makes his return to Yankee Stadium for the first time since he was fired in January 2020 by the Houston Astros and handed a season-long suspension by MLB for his role in the 2017 sign-stealing scandal.
In 2017, the Astros beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS to advance to the World Series (where they beat the Dodgers in seven games for the first title in franchise history).
Therefore, Hinch doesn’t expect a warm welcome.
“I’m not afraid to manage here,” Hinch said. “I’ll be just fine. I know the reaction to my name or the reaction to me going on the field. I’m well aware I’m not the most liked person in New York.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.