Chicago — And just like that, JaCoby Jones is off the Tigers 40-man roster and quite possibly on his way out of the organization.
The 29-year-old Jones, the Tigers injury-plagued starting center fielder the last three seasons, was designated for assignment Sunday morning to clear a roster spot for 25-year-old relief pitcher Jason Foley, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Toledo.
“Given our depth at that position and our confidence in Derek Hill and Daz Cameron and the guys we have up here, we have a couple of infielders who can play out there — we were deep in that area,” manager AJ Hinch said. “These are always difficult, especially for someone who has been in the organization and has contributed.
“It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for him. Hopefully he can bounce back, play well and get back to the big leagues.”
Jones, after putting up career-best numbers last season (.268 batting average with a 129 OPS-plus), never found his footing this season. He was hitting .170 with 42 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances before being demoted to Triple A on May 23.
He was only hitting .205 with the same strikeout rate in Triple A.
“He just hasn’t found that consistency over the course of his career,” Hinch said. “He’s got talent. He’s got impact ability. He can do things on both sides of the ball. You root for him because he’s a good dude, but it hasn’t all come together for him consistently over the last few years.
“That’s the challenge for him right now.”
If he clears waivers, Jones will be a free agent and can either sign back with the Tigers on a minor-league deal or seek another opportunity elsewhere.
“He’s got to go back to the drawing board and try to fight the good fight and find that consistency,” Hinch said. “That’s what separates guys from being established big-leaguers and guys who are interesting but not yet bona fide everyday players.”
Fulmer to IL
In the span of a week, the status of right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer went from having a planned rest period to being put in the 10-day injured list.
Fulmer had been unavailable since May 30. Both he and the club said he was dealing with fatigue after he’d pitched six high-leverage outings in a 13-day period. He went on the IL on Sunday with a right shoulder strain.
“The way this week played out, it was a lot different from the way it started to the way it finished,” Hinch said. “We had nothing to be alarmed about at the beginning of the week and now we’re putting him on the IL. It’s a tough turn of events.”
Fulmer said on Saturday that he felt fine. He said his body was just adjusting to the everyday workload of a reliever and he was sore. He was grateful that the Tigers gave him a few days to rest and he expected to be available by Sunday.
But on Sunday he told Hinch that he felt discomfort in the shoulder — which is a very different animal than fatigue.
“That changed the conversation completely,” Hinch said. “He has inflammation, which a lot of pitchers do right now. But we’re very cognizant of Fulmer’s injury history and the difficulties from the pandemic year to this year.
“We almost had to react this way to protect him and protect us, just give him a little blow. That’s still how we view this — a blow.”
Fulmer will have a battery of tests done on the shoulder to make sure there is no structural damage.
“We have to be cautious now, the way it all went down,” Hinch said. “We don’t think it’s structural. We don’t think it’s going to escalate. But once he made himself unavailable, we had no choice.”
Around the horn
Right-handed starter Jose Urena was activated to take Fulmer’s spot on the roster and got the start in the series finale Sunday against the White Sox. He’d missed one start with a cramp in his lower right forearm.
…The news was encouraging on starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull, who is on the injured list with right forearm tightness. Hinch said tests confirmed there was no structural damage. “He was in good spirits,” Hinch said. “He’s seen a handful of doctors here and spot to our doctors back in Detroit. It’s muscular. We are really happy with the initial diagnosis.”
… The Tigers are listing a TBA for their starting pitcher Thursday against Seattle. That would be Turnbull’s turn. There is a chance the Tigers could promote a non-roster starter from Toledo (Logan Shore or Drew Hutchison would be options), or they could make it a bullpen start.