Detroit — The drill had just started. It was four hours before game time and Harold Castro, who was in the Tigers’ original starting lineup at third base Wednesday, was doing early work on the field with the other infielders.
Suddenly he started shaking out his right hand, drawing the attention first of Niko Goodrum and others, then infield coaches Ramon Santiago and Chip Hale, who eventually escorted him off the field and down to the trainer’s room.
“He has a little hand soreness,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We’re getting him checked out by the doctors. It’s his right hand, something to do with the knuckle. We will see what the doctors say, but he won’t play in the field.”
He felt the pain while trying to throw.
Castro, who has made just one start this month and hasn’t played since Saturday, ended up being scratched, replaced at third base by rookie Isaac Paredes. Hinch said he wasn’t sure if Castro would be available to pinch-hit in the game or not.
Baseball Prospectus and others were reporting Wednesday that Tigers’ assistant hitting coach Jose Cruz Jr. is the leaving the organization after this weekend.
He’s been hired as head baseball coach at his alma mater, Rice University.
“I can confirm he’s been engaged in their process,” Hinch said before the university announced the hiring. “He’s a huge alum there and he’s (extremely) talented and can do a lot of different things. It’s not a surprise to me that people have come calling about him.”
Hinch said he’s spoken to Rice University officials about Cruz.
“The process is pretty deep,” Hinch said. “Obviously he’s a huge candidate and a very popular one. But it’s their timeline for when they want to discuss whether he’s hired or whether they’ve gone in a different direction.”
Cruz, a switch-hitting outfielder who played 12 seasons in the big leagues, was the last coach hired by Hinch this offseason. He was assisting hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, spending extra time with the Tigers’ four switch-hitters.
Cruz’s son Trei is a shortstop in the Tigers system.
Where is Haase?
Hall of Famer Jack Morris asked the question during Hinch’s pregame Zoom conference, half-joking.
“So what does Eric Haase have to do to get in the lineup?” Morris said.
Hinch laughed. All Haase has done is hit six home runs in his last six games, eight in the 20 games he’s been up. But Haase was not in Hinch’s lineup, not initially or after Castro was scratched.
“It is hard to keep him out of the lineup,” Hinch said. “It’s also hard to turn your back on other guys and not get other guys involved.”
One issue is that Hinch likes pairing catcher Jake Rogers with Casey Mize, who got the start against the Mariners Wednesday. So that takes Haase out of the catcher spot. And in the outfield?
“We’ve got to get Nomar Mazara going,” Hinch said. “And Derek Hill pretty much defended his way and hit his way and ran the bases his way into the lineup. It’s a good problem to have when you have too many guys you want to get into the lineup.
“Today I want to try to get Nomar back in the flow and Jake is catching Casey.”
Mazara, hitting .183 with two homers and 12 RBIs, has lost regular playing time. Wednesday was just his third start this month. Hinch said Haase would like start in left field Thursday afternoon.
“And tonight it leaves me with a really potent bat off the bench with he need a big pinch-hit,” he said.
Around the horn
Hinch said reliever Michael Fulmer was expected to throw a bullpen this weekend, which could go a long way in determining when he comes off the injured list. He was shut down with a shoulder strain retroactive to June 3, which would make him eligible to come off the injured list on Sunday.
… The Tigers will use multiple relievers to cover nine innings Thursday. With the Mariners’ lineup heavy with left-handed hitters, Hinch said he will likely start one of three left-handed pitchers — Tyler Alexander, Daniel Norris or Derek Holland. All three are former starters. Any of the three could be used in relief Wednesday night, as well.
Mariners at Tigers
► First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Thursday, Comerica Park, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1
► LHP Justus Sheffield (5-4, 4.77), Mariners: He will throw sinkers (92 mph) and sliders to right-handed hitters, and sinkers, four-seam fastballs and change-ups to lefties. Opponents are hitting .333 off his slider. He is coming off back-to-back wins, allowing four runs in 10⅔ innings with eight strikeouts and five walks.
► TBA, Tigers: This is injured Spencer Turnbull’s spot in the rotation and manager AJ Hinch said he would use a convoy of relievers to cover the nine innings. The Tigers had a bullpen game last week in which Tyler Alexander started. With all the lefties in the Mariners lineup, he’d be a good bet to start again.