Notes: Haase back; vets out in favor of youth

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT – The nine innings Eric Haase caught in his rehab game for Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday was a good sign he was ready to return from the injured list. So was the home run he drilled to straightaway center on the second pitch he saw.

“I felt pretty much back to normal two or three days after I was already put on the IL,” Haase said earlier in the week. “I wanted to be kind of aggressive, make sure that I was in there playing, getting up to speed so when I rejoined the team, there wasn’t any kind of lapse.”

In that sense, it was no surprise to see him not only back behind the plate for the Tigers to catch Matt Manning, but also batting fifth Friday night against the Blue Jays in his first game back.

“He stabilizes things, obviously can hit in the middle of the order, certainly against a left-handed pitcher,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’ll get back to his regular role, probably two [days] on [catching], one off. I may mix in a day in left field. And it’s a big boost to our lineup. He’s a presence, and he swings with intent.”

The swing, ironically, was one of the last things to get back to normal, Haase said. But he felt loose when he connected on a pitch from former Tigers teammate Beau Burrows on Tuesday at Fifth Third Field.

Haase provided a familiar face behind the plate for Matthew Boyd to pitch to in his rehab outing Tuesday. But once Boyd left after 4 1/3 innings, Haase stayed in the rest of the way.

“He works so hard,” said Mud Hens manager and former Major League catcher Tom Prince, who managed Haase at the start of the year before he was promoted to Detroit. “He’s had the success he’s had up there, and then he comes back here and helps us. I mean, just a quality person, let alone the stuff that he’s doing this year. It’s really good to see.”

Despite missing a week and a half, Haase entered Friday tied for the team lead with 19 home runs, while leading the team with a .512 slugging percentage. The Tigers went 3-6 since his last game, and were held to two runs or fewer in five of those six losses.

“For me, it wasn’t even about production for Eric,” Hinch said. “It was just his comfort and his ability to just compete and do all the things that you need to do behind the plate and at the plate. If you’re out for a long time, then you start talking about getting reworked into the routine and the grind of playing every day.”

Youth will be served
Though Erasmo Ramírez gave up runs in five of his last seven outings, he still had a role in the Tigers’ bullpen. The more pressing reason behind the Tigers designating the veteran right-hander for assignment was Detroit’s desire to evaluate younger arms down the stretch, beginning with hard-throwing Jason Foley.

Foley hadn’t been up since mid-June, and struggled upon his return to Triple-A Toledo. But the 25-year-old right-hander had allowed just three runs on nine hits over 13 1/3 innings in his last 12 outings, walking five and striking out 14. His fastball sat at 97 mph to go with a solid slider in a strong five-out performance in his last outing for the Mud Hens on Wednesday, including a double-play groundout from rehabbing Byron Buxton.

“We always want to pay attention to what’s going on with this team, and also what we’re looking to learn in the next 30 to 40 days,” Hinch said. “Jason Foley has thrown the ball very well since we sent him down. He’s had a taste of the big leagues. We want to start to look at guys that have more of an opportunity to be here next year, and unfortunately it cost Erasmo his spot.”

Tigers release Núñez
Though Renato Núñez willingly accepted another assignment to Toledo when the Tigers designated him for assignment last weekend, the Mud Hens didn’t have a role for him after the arrival of top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene. Thus, the Tigers granted him his release on Friday to let him pursue other opportunities.

“He had reported to Triple-A and when you just look at the lineups, it was impossible for Tom Prince to work him in,” Hinch said. “The other day on the bench, he had like 60 home runs in Triple-A on the bench. Núñez was there. [Aderlin] Rodriguez was there. We can’t play everybody.

“When we wanted to promote all the young guys, it’s real exciting. It does cost guys that have done very well in Triple-A. And so, I think out of respect for Renato and other opportunities that are going to present themselves, the organization did good by him to let him pursue those.”

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