Only a few years ago, September 1 annually brought a flurry of new Detroit Tigers to Comerica Park as MLB rosters expanded for the season’s final month.
All members of the 40-man roster were eligible to play, giving playoff contenders a boost down the stretch and rebuilding teams an opportunity to offer their young players a taste of the big leagues.
But since the start of the 2020 season, September roster expansion has been limited to going from 26 to 28 players.
“That was a dilemma in the past, where you would have up to 40 guys here,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Wednesday. “If you’re out of the race, you’re running a glorified instructional league, and that feels different. I do think we’re getting it right as a sport to have a normal-sized roster. It does cost you the hope that you’re going to look at somebody or get a young kid up here and give him a taste of the big leagues and ease some of the workload. But let’s play a full season with a normal roster.”
“This is a month when you’re falling out of the race that you want to look at some guys and conserve some of your pitchers,” Hinch said. “You’re running out of games that you’re going to be able to evaluate who’s on board for next year and what area you might upgrade.
“I’m still going to subscribe to the theory that you play the players who should play. You earn your playing time. Whatever you bring to the table to help us win that day is the group that should play.”
Goodrum, 29, landed on the injured list with a left groin strain Aug. 12, just two days after he was activated from a previous stint on the injured list. He completed rehab assignments with Low-A Lakeland and Triple-A Toledo to prepare for Wednesday’s addition to the roster.
He previously dealt with a left finger tendon injury, which sent him to the injured list June 19. He also battled back from a left calf contusion, holding him out from July 17 until Aug. 10.
“Niko has had a tough year,” Hinch said. “Physically, he’s just had a hard time being consistent, getting enough reps in and being healthy enough. Just when he started to come back last time, he hurt his groin.”
Goodrum — who faces another potential arbitration battle this offseason — is hitting .224 with six home runs, 21 RBIs, 22 walks and 84 strikeouts over 65 games. The switch-hitter entered Wednesday’s starting lineup as the shortstop, but Hinch plans to use him around the field.
“We do know that he can bring something positive to our team,” Hinch said. “We’d like him to get started. There’s ample opportunity for him to play around the field and fulfill the role we expect him to when I said he was going to start to move around the field. The better he plays, the more he plays.”
Peralta, 32, developed his finger blister during his Aug. 21 start against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. He posted six innings of two-run ball, using just 64 pitches, but went to the injured list the following morning.
Hinch gave Peralta the start Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park. The Tigers are looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s series-opening 9-3 loss, in which the A’s pummeled left-hander Tarik Skubal for six runs on seven hits and three walks over five innings.
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“We need innings,” Hinch said. “He was an inning-supplier for a long stretch. We need him to be good. When our rotation establishes itself as strike-throwers, dictates the pace of the game and gets quick outs, our team generally responds to that. He was a big part of that for a long time. He had the little blister flare-up. Hopefully, we’ve got no issues with that. As we saw last night, you got to throw good strikes against these guys to get them out. It’s a tough offense.”
Peralta has a 3.63 ERA with 23 walks and 39 strikeouts over 13 games (12 starts) in 2021.
Miggy vs. the NL
The Tigers hit the road for six consecutive games against the National League, facing the Cincinnati Reds (Friday-Sunday) and Pittsburgh Pirates (Monday-Wednesday). The schedule is less than ideal, and the absence of a designated hitter spot in NL parks will impact Miguel Cabrera’s usage. He will not play Thursday’s series finale against the Athletics.
“That should set up a couple of days back-to-back at first base in Cincinnati,” Hinch said. “I haven’t decided what I’m going to do in Pittsburgh. The first game of the series is a day game on Monday and then two night games. My hope is (for him to play) the first couple games in Cincinnati, then give Sunday as a day off, like I normally have with the day games. Hopefully, Miggy will get at least one if not two games in Pittsburgh at first base. He’s a pretty good pinch-hitter, too.”
What about Baddoo?
In five games since returning from the injured list, rookie outfielder Akil Baddoo is 2-for-18 (.111) with one double and six strikeouts. With 29 games remaining, Hinch wants him to focus on controlling the strike zone and drawing walks — two aspects he excelled at earlier in the season. Baddoo hasn’t drawn a walk since July 29. (For the season, he’s hitting .258 with 10 home runs, 45 RBIs, 31 walks and 95 strikeouts over 98 games.)
“Akil has slightly shifted away from the discipline that he had shown during his better stretches of his season,” Hinch said. “He’s always going to be a powerful guy. He’s always going to be a swing-first guy. He’s not a guy who takes, but he is a guy who has shown immense confidence in knowing the margins of the strike zone. I hope he can settle in as he’s playing in a month that he’s never played in before at a level that he’s never played at before.”
“Those scoreboard numbers are real, and you start to peek at them, look at them and want to hold on to them when you’ve made such an effort to get to this level in his first year. I hope he settles back in to commanding the strike zone the way he did when he was at his best. That would be a small goal for him to finish what’s been a spectacular burst on the scene.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.