To complete his rehab assignment, Boyd started Tuesday for the Mud Hens against the St. Paul Saints, an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. He pitched 4⅓ scoreless innings without a walk, giving up just one hit and striking out six. He threw 39 of 56 pitches for strikes.
“He faced some guys he’s faced before, some former big leaguers,” Hinch said Wednesday. “(Byron) Buxton was on rehab there. It was nice that he got into the fifth inning. He was being very pitch efficient. He did a nice job of taking the next step for his rehab.”
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Boyd will travel to Comerica Park on Friday for tests and evaluations, and the Tigers have him penciled in to start Sunday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He has been on the injured list since June 15 with left arm discomfort.
Over three starts for Toledo, Boyd pitched 9⅓ scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts. He gave up five hits — without a walk — to the 31 batters he faced, giving him a 0.536 WHIP. He has a 3.44 ERA, 19 walks and 56 strikeouts in 70⅔ innings over 13 outings for the Tigers in 2021.
“In pencil right now,” Hinch said. “we’re hoping that he can make a start on Sunday here in the big leagues.”
As Boyd dominated on the mound, catcher Eric Haase lifted the Mud Hens to a 2-0 victory with a two-run home run in the first inning. After top prospect Riley Greene drew a leadoff walk, Haase jumped on a 1-0 pitch from ex-Tiger Beau Burrows and put it 438 feet over the wall in right-center field.
The 28-year-old landed on the injured list Aug. 19, retroactive to Aug. 16, with a right abdominal strain.
“He’s in a good place,” Hinch said. “Originally, we were going to have him play these two days and then re-evaluate on Thursday. That’s what we did. He played nine innings (as the catcher) yesterday, which tells me everything that I need to know about his comfort level and his ability to respond. He’s going to DH tonight and get a few more at-bats.
“We’re going to give him the off day on Thursday and re-evaluate for what it looks like for the weekend. As we said when we put him on the injured list, he was going to be able to play within that timeframe. He did that. Taking a cautious approach should hopefully help him down the stretch in late August and September.”
Haase is expected to return Friday to the Tigers.
What about Saturday?
• Rookie right-hander Matt Manning is scheduled to start Friday’s opener against the Jays, and Boyd is tabbed for Sunday. But the Tigers announced Saturday’s starter as to be determined, which Hinch said will come down to righty Jose Urena or left-hander Tyler Alexander. While Alexander posted seven innings of one-run ball against the Blue Jays on Aug. 20, it’ll be tough for him to repeat those results against Toronto’s lethal batting order.
“We’ll see,” Hinch said. “Tyler is going to pitch at some point that day, whether we start him or whether we have him be the bulk reliever. The reason for TBD is because we’re going to evaluate on Friday what Urena’s availability is.”
• Utility player Niko Goodrum has been on the injured list since Aug. 12 with a left groin strain. He should arrive in Triple-A Toledo before the weekend to begin the next step in his rehab assignment. The Tigers hope to get him back Sept. 1, when rosters expand to 28 players.
“Niko is going to play the game in Lakeland, and then he’s going to Toledo as early as tomorrow and be in the lineup as the DH. He’ll play a little bit of infield, little bit of outfield. … He feels really good. He’s running at the same times that he would run home to first, home to second, things that we can track to see where his health is and confidence is.”
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.