Hinch a fan of limited Sept. roster expansion

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — The home clubhouse at Comerica Park would be getting crowded around this time in past seasons, loaded with a slew of September callups as rosters expanded to up to 40 players. Some would be depth additions, others would be prospects earning a few weeks in the spotlight at the Major League level. But any healthy player on the 40-man roster was available.

This year, it’s different. With Major League Baseball’s changes limiting September rosters to 28 players, the Tigers — like other teams — are limited to two additional players. The goal is to have every team playing with the same size roster and the same amount of depth in late-season games that determine playoff berths and Draft slotting.

“We have a normal roster,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I think that’s a dilemma in the past, where you would have up to 40 guys here. If you’re out of the race, you’re running a glorified instructional league, and that feels different. So, thankfully, I do think we’re getting it right as a sport to have a normal-size roster.

“It does cost you the hope that you’re going to look at somebody or get a young kid up here and get him a taste of the big leagues and be able to ease some of the workload. But let’s play a full season with a normal roster and do it. This is a month when you’re falling out of the race when you do want to look at guys, and you’re conserving some of your pitchers. You’re running out of games that you’re going to be able to evaluate who’s on board for next year and which areas you might upgrade, but I still am going to subscribe to the theory that you play the players you should play. You earn your playing time.”

With those changes, the goals for teams like the Tigers down the stretch with their September callups also change. What used to be a late-season look at prospects for evaluation purposes is now much more selective and, in this year’s case, more pragmatic.

The Tigers’ moves to look at youngsters came before Sept. 1. They called up reliever Alex Lange on Aug. 22 in part to evaluate his potential fit for next season. They did the same with fellow reliever Jason Foley, who made two appearances last weekend before being sent back to Triple-A Toledo for a fresh arm in Miguel Del Pozo, another reliever the Tigers wanted to watch.

By contrast, Detroit’s two September additions Wednesday were both veterans reinstated from the 10-day injured list. Niko Goodrum, out since mid-August with a left groin strain, started at shortstop Wednesday night against the A’s but will move around the field in a superutility role, according to Hinch.

“I think Niko has had a tough year. Physically, he’s just had a hard time being consistent and getting enough reps and being healthy enough. We do know that he can bring something positive to our team. And there’s ample opportunity for him to play around the field and fulfill the role that we expected him to. The better he plays, the more he’ll play. Same goes for a lot of guys.”

Goodrum played Wednesday behind Wily Peralta, who returned from the 10-day IL to start on the mound against Oakland. He essentially missed one turn in the rotation with a blister on his right index finger. With his return, the Tigers are back to a six-man rotation to help watch the innings workload on young starters Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning.

With rosters limited, the September prospect evaluation will go on in the Minor Leagues, especially at Triple-A Toledo. While most Minor League seasons will end on Sept. 19, the Triple-A season was extended another two weeks to coincide with the Major League season. That allows teams to have players ready and available to call up in case of September injuries, rather than relying on a taxi squad or another alternate site setup.

But it also gives young players like Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene, Isaac Paredes, Daz Cameron, Kody Clemens, Angel De Jesus, Nivaldo Rodriguez and Will Vest another couple of weeks to develop and make impressions going into next Spring Training.

For players like Clemens, De Jesus and Rodriguez, it’s especially important, since the Tigers will have to decide this fall whether to add them to the 40-man roster or leave them exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. In past years, the Tigers’ current extra 40-man roster space might have allowed them to get a look in Detroit.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Day
The Tigers joined other Major League teams in wearing golden wristbands and decals on Wednesday in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. They also surprised a pediatric cancer warrior at Children’s Hospital of Michigan by naming him “Tiger for a Day” and letting him attend Wednesday’s game in a suite at Comerica Park. Right-hander Michael Fulmer paid a virtual visit, while PAWS stopped by Children’s Hospital of Michigan to say hello to hematology/oncology patients.

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