Detroit — The Tigers made another batch of roster moves Saturday, one involving the outfield and the other the bullpen.
Nomar Mazara, out since April 15 with a left abdominal strain, was activated off the injured list after three rehab starts at Triple-A Toledo.
To make room, outfielder Victor Reyes was optioned back to Toledo.
“That was a tough one,” Manager AJ Hinch said of his conversation with Reyes. “I love Victor, but we had to make a move and we decided to keep the extra pitcher based on how the bullpen usage has been.”
Reyes, who hit .293 with an OPS of .741 in 2019 and 2020, struggled right from the start this season. He’s hitting .143 with a .407 OPS, though he had started hitting the ball harder during the road trip.
“We need Victor to get back to having a more consistent approach,” Hinch said. “Getting to play every day in Triple-A is better than being one of five outfielders in the big leagues.”
Reyes’.182 average on balls in play indicates he’s hit in some bad luck. Supporting that, his average exit velocity on balls in play is 89 mph and Statcast has his expected batting average at .262.
“We were very direct with him – go swing he bat and play all three outfield positions and get yourself back,” Hinch said. “He was a little unlucky with how he was playing. The playing time was sporadic. There were a lot of reasons why things didn’t go perfectly for him.
“I thought he was coming out of it a little in Boston, but he was the odd-man out today.”
Mazara went 2 for 12 with a home run in three rehab starts at Triple-A Toledo.
“The rehab feels short, just three games, but he was able to jump right in and play three full games,” Hinch said. “His swing’s been good. I told him, just come up and be good, that’s all we need him to do. He’s healthy and he feels good.
“His pitch recognition has been good and that was a key to indicate to us that we could push him a little and get him here sooner.”
On the pitching side, veteran right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, just called up from Toledo on Friday, was put on the 10-day injured list with a right pectoralis strain. He suffered the injury while warming up in the fourth inning Friday night.
Replacing him in the bullpen will be Joe Jimenez, getting his second call-up this season. The former All Star and closer yielded seven walks and five runs in one inning over two outings in his previous stint with the Tigers.
The other 40-man roster options available to replace Ramirez were Beau Burrows, Rony Garcia and Matt Manning.
“He can pitch at this level and we have to keep challenging him,” Hinch said of Jimenez. “And we need innings. As much as I want to talk about roles, we’re just trying to get through the games with a healthy group.”
With Buck Farmer designated for assignment Friday and Derek Holland on the injured list, the Tigers have added Kyle Funkhouser and now Jimenez to the mix. Michael Fulmer is now full-time option in the bullpen, as well.
But the Tigers went into the game Saturday with at least three relievers unavailable – Daniel Norris, Jose Cisnero and Bryan Garcia, all had pitched three times in the last four days.
“In general, guys have to fight for playing time,” Hinch said when asked if there was open competition for leverage roles in the bullpen again. “Without making every day the end-all and be-all for those guys, everybody that steps up and produces some spark, you’re going to see them (playing more).
“We are trying to ride the hot hand as much as we can. You can earn playing time on this team, for sure.”
Jones toughs it out
Hinch and head athletic trainer Doug Teter knew it was going to be like pulling teeth when they went out to check on JaCoby Jones during an at-bat Friday.
“He winced after a swing,” Hinch said. “We weren’t sure what it was, so we went out there. You can’t take any chances, especially with JaCoby. He’s a tough kid and he doesn’t really like to talk about it.”
Hinch and Teter kept asking Jones what hurt. They kept naming body parts. Finally, they determined it was the back.
“It was a funky swing and he tweaked his back,” Hinch said. “The (rain delay) helped him. He was able to take some treatment. It was more uncomfortable than injured, which is why we left him in the game.”
Jones was available Saturday, but Hinch had already pre-planned to use left-handed hitting Harold Castro in center against Twins right-handed starter Jose Berrios.