Before Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch leaves the ballpark, he checks in with the athletic trainers.
The topic of conversation after splitting Saturday’s doubleheader with the Houston Astros was right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer, who squandered the Game 2 lead by giving up back-to-back home runs in a 3-2 loss at Comerica Park.
“They informed me of a little bit of discomfort after his outing, and that Michael hadn’t felt anything during his outing, during his warmup or anytime during the game,” Hinch said Sunday. “After the game, as the adrenaline wore off, he was complaining of some issues with his neck.”
During his drive home, Hinch received a phone call from head athletic trainer Doug Teter. By Sunday morning, Fulmer was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right cervical spine strain. The Tigers called up lefty reliever Miguel Del Pozo from Triple-A Toledo to replace him.
“He’s been evaluated by doctor but hasn’t got the full array of tests that he needs to,” Hinch said. “It bothered him to the point where he was going to be down for the Cleveland series (Monday-Wednesday), and we’re simply not going to carry somebody that can’t pitch.”
This is Fulmer’s second stint on the 10-day injured list. He went down with a right shoulder strain June 6, which kept him out until June 14. He has a 4.05 ERA, 11 walks and 42 strikeouts in 40 innings across 25 games (four starts).
As for the player filling his roster spot, Del Pozo was a no-brainer.
The 28-year-old has a 1.02 ERA, six walks and 23 strikeouts for the Mud Hens. He has pitched 17⅔ innings over 15 relief appearances. Toledo manager Tom Price and pitching coach Doug Bochtler advocated for his promotion.
“He’s out-pitched everybody in Triple A,” Hinch said. “He’s been incredible. We brought him up a couple weeks ago, didn’t pitch him and sent him right back now. He’s back up, and he will pitch this time. We’ll see if the command and control that he has shown this season that, quite honestly, he hadn’t shown in his previous stints in the big leagues.”
Del Pozo pitched for the Los Angeles Angels in 2019 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020, making 17 appearances for the Angels and five more for the Pirates. These experiences accounted for all 13 innings in his MLB career. He has a 12.46 career ERA.
“If he’s really found his command his stuff, then that same stuff that he’s throwing in Triple A — with the breaking ball and mid-90s fastball — can play up here,” Hinch said. “He’s earned the opportunity because he’s out-pitched everybody.”
Short in, Paredes out
After Saturday’s doubleheader, the Tigers decided to keep shortstop Zack Short. He served as the 27th man for the seven-inning games, but his game one performance — 2-for-2 with one double, one home run and two RBIs, plus stable defense at shortstop — convinced the organization to give him a longer look.
Short, 26, is hitting .313 in seven games for the Tigers, with five walks and nine strikeouts. He had a .221 batting average, six home runs, 17 RBIs, 23 walks and 31 strikeouts through 28 games for the Mud Hens.
“It’ll still be a timeshare (at shortstop), for the most part, until somebody grabs the opportunity and takes it,” Hinch said. “I’m trying to keep these guys getting regular at-bats to see if we can get somebody hot, but it’ll be matchup based for right now.
“With Short at shortstop, we saw some flashes of things that he can do well and some things that he needs to work on. The only thing that he needs is time. He needs experience. He needs to play some games. He hasn’t played a ton up here at this level. His at-bats have been very competitive. We’re going to give him an opportunity to see if he can play consistent shortstop.”
To bring up Short, the Tigers needed to dump an infielder.
Paredes was the odd man out.
“It was a very tough decision because I think Isaac is showing progress,” Hinch said. “There’s things for him to work on, but I love his actions defensively. He came up with some big swings, but he got a little unlucky. There wasn’t really anything that he could control, other than maybe a few more hits here and there.”
In 11 games this season, Paredes owns a .172 batting average, one home run, four RBIs, six walks and five strikeouts. He has already played 30 games in Toledo, hitting .261 with two homers, 14 RBIs, 16 walks and 18 strikeouts.
“The reason it’s tough is because it didn’t have to be him,” Hinch said. “It’s going to put some pressure on other guys, and we’re going to have this continual evaluation while we have the opportunities to see what can happen. For Isaac, we decided for him to go down and play in Triple A every day and ramp up pressure on the guys that are staying here, including Zack.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.