The answer came Thursday, when the Tigers optioned Greiner to Triple-A Toledo to make room for Eric Haase, set to return before Friday’s series opener with the Toronto Blue Jays after a 10-day stay on the injured list with right abdominal strain. (Also: Drew Hutchison, recently designated for assignment, cleared waivers and was sent to Toledo.)
The Tigers acquired Garneau from the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 18. They needed a second catcher upon learning Haase’s injury — while nothing severe — would require time away from the big leagues. Haase played two games as part of a rehab assignment with the Mud Hens.
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Garneau, 33, is hitting .333 (4-for-12) with two doubles in five games since the Tigers added him to their roster. The seven-year MLB veteran has played just 145 career games, but his experience helped him reach the 2020 postseason with the Houston Astros.
“He caught in the playoffs last year,” Hinch said last week. “That can’t go unnoticed. There’s no level that’s been too big for him. He’s a catcher first, and anything he brings offensively will be a plus. There’s a calmness to him behind the plate. … He’s a student of the game and trustable with how he’s going to prepare.
“He was here (in spring training). It’s as seamless a transition as you are going to get at that position and one of the reasons we targeted him. I’ve always appreciated how he handles the game behind the plate and his interactions with our pitchers during the spring. He was unlucky earlier in the year. He probably would have been called up with the injuries that we had earlier in the season.”
Back in December, the Tigers signed Garneau to a minor-league deal.
But Greiner won the Opening Day backup job behind starter Wilson Ramos, beating out Garneau, Haase and Jake Rogers. When the Tigers needed two catchers in May, with Ramos and Greiner sidelined with injuries, Rogers and Haase were called up.
At the time, Garneau had a wrist fracture.
“Talking with Haase, I love that he’s finally getting an opportunity to show what he can do,” Garneau said last week. “Everybody who’s see him in Triple-A knows his homers, that’s what he has. He has more juice than anyone I’ve ever seen. Finally getting an opportunity to play a decent amount in the big leagues and showing it, I’ve been excited to watch him do it.”
Rogers, 26, had cemented himself as a key part of the future until right arm soreness sent him to the injured list. Still a rookie at 28, Haase is hitting .238 with 10 doubles, 19 home runs — tied for the team lead — and 49 RBIs over 70 games.
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Without a path to the Tigers, Garneau opted out of his minor-league deal July 15 to become a free agent. Seven days later, the Rockies picked him up and assigned him to Triple-A Albuquerque. He only played 11 games with his new team before the trade.
Now he’s getting an opportunity to finish the season with the Tigers.
“Bad timing all around, but that’s part of baseball,” Garneau said. “Breaking my wrist, taking the opt-out, not expecting a trade after the trade deadline. Now I’m back to where I started.”
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.