AJ Hinch continues to juggle Tigers’ young outfield pieces, trying to find the perfect fit

Detroit News

Detroit — It’s not really a competition. They are teammates, they are pulling the rope in the same direction.

But it’s kind of a competition.

Eventually, manager AJ Hinch will sort out which of his young, athletically gifted outfielders is best suited for center field (in the absence of Derek Hill). But for now Akil Baddoo and Daz Cameron need to check the lineup card daily to see who’s playing center and who’s in one of the corner spots.

“We’re trying to find out what the best combination is when every particular combination plays,” Hinch said before the game Friday.

Baddoo, who had started in center in four of the last five games, was positioned in left field against the White Sox Friday. Cameron, who started four of the last five games in right field, started in center. Robbie Grossman, whom Hinch is comfortable playing in either corner but has played mostly in left, started in right.

Three factors played into Hinch’s decision Friday — starting pitcher Casey Mize, the White Sox lineup and the spacious left-center field gap at Comerica Park.

“We want to look at Baddoo in left,” Hinch said. “Left field is very big here and having him and Daz patrol that area is something we think will be an advantage. Especially with Mize, we know where the balls are hit usually against him.

“And with (the White Sox’s) injuries, they’ve been going with a more balanced lineup. We’re trying to figure it all out.”

It’ll be Cameron’s 10th start in center field since being called up from Toledo. He’s made seven starts in right. He has a zero defensive runs saved number at both positions, though the zone ratings indicate he has better range in center than right.

Baddoo, who has played in 62 games, has 32 starts in center (minus-4 defensive runs saved), 25 in left (plus-1) and five in right (plus-one).

More: Tigers at the midpoint: Plan, process, patience leading, slowly, to progress

“There’s not a firm answer on what we’re going to do moving forward,” Hinch said. “We’re going to take a look at every option.”

The question will become moot, though, when or if Hill is recalled from Toledo. If Hill is in the lineup, he will play center.

Asked if the players looked at it as a competition, Hinch said, “They just want to be in the lineup. Akil was in A-ball 24 months ago and Daz was in Triple-A two weeks ago. They’ll be happy wherever I put them.”

True enough.

Erasmo returns

Maybe this time he’ll actually make it into a game.

Veteran right-hander Erasmo Ramirez had his contract purchased by the Tigers from Toledo on May 7. On May 8, he was warming up when he felt pain in his pectoralis. Two months later, he’s back to take another shot at making his Tigers debut.

“He’ll be used strictly out of the pen,” Hinch said. “We don’t have any off days now until the All-Star break.”

Right-hander Miguel Del Pozo was optioned back to Toledo on Wednesday night.

More: Lynn Henning’s 2021 MLB mock draft 1.0: Will Tigers make pitch or come up short?

“Del Pozo is going to be on that shuttle back and forth,” Hinch said. “Right now we feel more comfortable with the pitches Erasmo can give us.”

Ramirez, 31, nearly won a roster spot out of spring training as a non-roster invitee.

“Over his career he’s been a reliable strike-thrower,” Hinch said. “He’s been durable and he can mix and match and make up pitches along the way. He’s got a little of that veteran savviness to him.

“He just finds a way to the big leagues and there’s something to be said for guys who find their way to the big leagues as many years as he has.”

This is his 10th season (Mariners, Rays, Mets and Red Sox).

Fulmer sees specialist

Injured right-hander Michael Fulmer took a slight detour on his way to the Tigers’ training complex in Lakeland. He flew to Arlington, Texas, to be seen by specialist Dr. Keith Meister. The Tigers believe his injury is isolated in the neck area, but Fulmer wants to be doubly sure the shoulder hasn’t been compromised.

Meister performed Fulmer’s Tommy John surgery.

“With Michael’s medical history, keeping his peace of mind is important,” Hinch said. “It’s important for players to feel comfortable. We don’t think anything is going to get revealed that we didn’t already know, but if it brings comfort to Michael, then it’s all good.”

Around the horn

Hinch wanted to reiterate what he’d said on Wednesday when Hill was sent back to Toledo after serving as the 27th man in the doubleheader against the Indians.

Hill, by rule, had to go back. He had been optioned to Toledo on Tuesday and thus needs to stay in Triple-A at least 10 days before the Tigers could call him back. The only way he could’ve stayed would’ve been to replace an injured player.

… Congratulations to Toledo manager Tom Prince. He earned his 500th career win as a minor league manager Thursday night as the Mud Hens beat Columbus. This is Prince’s 12th year as a manager, second with the Mud Hens. He’s been in professional baseball for 38 seasons.

… Hinch said rookie Matt Manning will start Sunday against the White Sox. The Tigers had considered pushing him back an extra day.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

White Sox at Tigers

First pitch: 4:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

SCOUTING REPORT

LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 3.96), White Sox: He doesn’t throw a pitch harder than 89 mph. He has below average spin rates. He doesn’t strike many people out (average 5.5 per nine innings). All he does is find a way to beat you. The White Sox are 10-6 in his starts. He beat the Tigers on June 4, allowing one earned run in six innings.

LHP Tarik Skubal (4-7, 4.06), Tigers: This will the third time he’s faced them in six starts. He beat the White Sox in Chicago (11 strikeouts) on June 5 and lost to them at Comerica on June 11. He’s coming off the best start of his career, limiting the Astros to a run over seven innings with nine punch outs. His 89 strikeouts leads all rookie starters.

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