Detroit — Barring any setbacks physically, infielders Niko Goodrum (calf) and Isaac Paredes (hip) will soon be ready for activation off the injured list. Both are starting rehab assignments with Triple-A Toledo, both have the next five to seven days mapped out.
After that, it’s decision time for manager AJ Hinch and the Tigers.
“The more the merrier,” Hinch said before the game. “It’ll increase competition. I’ve always lived by the saying, give us as many hard decisions as you can because that means we’re in a really good place. A manager should never complain about having too many available good players.”
Presently, Zack Short has been the primary shortstop, with Willi Castro and Jonathan Schoop alternating at second. Harold Castro has been the left-handed hitting utility man. Who are you sending down?
► Harold Castro is slashing .431/.436/.471 over his last 16 games.
► Willi Castro has produced two doubles, two triples, a home run and scored six runs since he was recalled to replace Paredes.
► Short, who has contributed five homers and 15 RBIs in 33 games, has significantly solidified the defense in the middle of the diamond.
Hinch was asked if the need to develop players like Paredes and Willi Castro at the big-league level would play a role in the decision-making.
“We’re trying to develop winners,” he said. “It is important for guys to get experience and some exposure and challenge. But it’s not free playing time up here. This isn’t the instructional league, it’s the big leagues and we’re going to keep that mindset for all of our players.”
In the past, the Tigers could solve that issue when rosters expand in September. This year, though, teams can only add two more players in September.
“That’s where the difficulty comes,” he said. “That’s when you’re trying to learn about your players.”
He’s still a ways a way from starting a rehab assignment, but lefty Matthew Boyd is making good progress, throwing bullpens off the mound in Lakeland.
“He threw a bullpen this morning,” Hinch said. “I talked to him on the phone and he was really excited. He’s getting a lot of feedback being able to throw in Lakeland where we have all our sports science stuff. He felt great.”
Boyd has been on the injured list since June 15 with left elbow discomfort.
“He started talking about working on his command,” Hinch said. “When you are talking about command over health, that’s a really good step in the right direction.”
There is no set timetable for Boyd’s return, but the Tigers are hopeful he can be back before the end of August.
Hill in leadoff spot
With Akil Baddoo getting the night off against Orioles lefty John Means Saturday, Hinch inserted Derek Hill into the leadoff spot in his batting order.
“He’s had good at-bats,” Hinch said. “He’s earned the opportunity.”
Hill was coming off a two-hit performance including his first career triple Friday. Since being called up from Toledo in July 16, Hill is slashing .314/.426/.353 with 11 runs scored, a triple and five RBIs.
“We moved him into the second spot the other day (when Schoop was a late scratch) and I kind of liked having that speed at the top of the lineup,” Hinch said. “He’s been getting on base and getting hits and sparking us when he gets on base.
“When I sit Akil, it’s nice to be able to replace him with a similar skill set — speed and pressure. Derek is really developing into a productive hitter in his own way.”