Detroit — The Tigers are not giving up on infielder Willi Castro. Manager AJ Hinch made that point clear Friday morning after the Tigers announced that Castro was being optioned to Triple-A Toledo.
“Our best team has Willi involved and has him playing virtually every day,” Hinch said. “We’ve got to get him untracked.”
Infielder Isaac Paredes and center fielder Derek Hill were called up from Toledo. Veteran outfielder Nomar Mazara was designated for assignment.
“These moves were made for different reasons but yet they are the same,” Hinch said. “It’s about keeping a high standard here and that performance matters here. The same plays true with the infielders now that are here.
“People are going to fight for playing time and that’s a good thing.”
Hinch had Paredes starting at second base Friday, but he said that’s not necessarily going to be a permanent assignment. He said Jonathan Schoop might play more at second base and Jeimer Candelario could see more time at first base.
“I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to play out over time,” he said. “We have a lot of options and the versatility helps. I’m not going to make any firm commitments until we see things play out on the field a little bit more.”
With the worst defensive rating in baseball, though, the Tigers weren’t going to stand pat over the All-Star break. Castro was a minus-10 at second base and he was struggling mightily at the plate.
Hinch said Castro will continue to focus on second base while in Triple A.
“Even though the defensive metrics aren’t very kind to him, we’ve seen some progress at second base and we want to continue to see that,” he said. “But a lot of it has to do with getting his bat untracked.”
Castro hit .349 with a 150 wRC-plus (weighted runs created) in 140 plate appearances last year. He’s not come close to that production in 280 plate appearances this year, hitting .214 with a 69 wRC-plus.
“He admitted to me in my office that he’s just struggled too long,” Hinch said. “It’s just carried on too long. His confidence isn’t shattered. He definitely can play at this level. We’ve had success doing this with a couple other guys — get them to Triple A, get them everyday at-bats, let them settle down and decompress and ultimately play their way back up here.
“But to be clear, our best team has Willi as a viable member of the major league club. We just have to get him there.”
Bringing Hill back is another move that will boost defensive efficiency. It certainly boosts the athleticism of the outfield with Hill in center flanked by Akil Baddoo and Robbie Grossman.
“I really wanted Derek Hill back in the big leagues to man center field,” Hinch said. “His defense is really second to none in our organization in the outfield. This will bring a ton of energy and a ton of productivity.
“Having that athleticism sprinkled around our team, you can see the nucleus of a good outfield starting to develop.”
Mazara, signed to a one-year, $1.75 million deal to provide run production from the left side, produced just three home runs, 19 RBIs and a 64 wRC-plus.
“The conversation with Nomar was tough because he’s a real pro and we like him,” Hinch said. “We wanted to give him an opportunity. And for me personally, I wanted to make sure he got a fair shake with playing time and a fair chance to break out of his slump.
“It didn’t seem like it was working. What we were doing wasn’t working. We weren’t seeing the progress that we needed.”
With five years of service time, Mazara can decline a minor-league assignment if he clears waivers. He will likely become a free agent and seek an opportunity with another organization.
Bartee is back
Kimera Bartee, who played for the Tigers from 1996-99, is back in the old English ‘D’ — this time as a first base coach.
He’d been serving the organization as a roving outfield and base running coach, but Hinch brought him up essentially to replace Chip Hale, who is now the head coach at the University of Arizona.
Ramon Santiago will move from the first base coaching box to third base. Bench coach George Lombard, who had been filling in at third, will go back to the dugout.
“This decision was built on the overall functionality of our staff,” Hinch said. “I got a full week to see George do both jobs and how the dugout functioned and the job on the bases. I have complete confidence that we could’ve held serve and maintained status quo.
“But I just felt like we were missing something at a couple of different spots.”
Santiago had transitioned to the third base coaching box under Ron Gardenhire last year. Bartee coached first for the Pirates from 2017-19. Bartee will also handle in-game positioning of the outfielders.
“Adding Kimera was easy,” Hinch said. “He’s been at first base before and he’s done our outfield and base running before, albeit at a distance.”
Around the horn
The Tigers brought up lefty Miguel Del Pozo as the 27th man for the doubleheader.
… Hinch said Daz Cameron (turf toe) is expected to ramp up baseball activities this week. The hope is he can start playing rehab games at Toledo when the Tigers head out for a two-city trip on July 23-28.