St. Petersburg, Fla. — The 2021 season has come to an end for two players who greatly impacted the Tigers turnaround this season.
Gregory Soto and Derek Hill were both placed on the injured list Sunday.
Soto, the Tigers’ representative in the All-Star game this season, was hit in the left hand by a line drive, a ball that left Rays’ Manuel Margot’s bat at 99.9 mph, on Friday. Initial X-rays on his hand were negative, but subsequent tests revealed a fracture at the tip of his left ring finger.
“Originally we looked at his hand, where he said he got hit,” manager AJ Hinch explained before the game Sunday. “You could see where the ball hit the hand and there was no fracture. But he went out and played catch before the game Saturday and afterwards complained of swelling in the tip of his finger.
“That led to more tests, which revealed the fracture.”
Hinch said Soto plans to be examined by a hand specialist next week.
“It’s not an alarming fracture, but it’s going to keep him out,” he said. “I don’t know why we would rush anything until he’s completely healed, and these injuries don’t typically heal in 10 days to two weeks. We expect that to be the end of the year for him.”
Although he was never officially named the closer, Soto was performing the closer’s duties most of the season. He finished with 18 saves and 3.39 ERA.
Hill was injured in the fifth inning Saturday after he fell awkwardly crossing first base. He was inadvertently bumped by first baseman Ji-Man Choi and hyperextended his left knee when he awkwardly hit the back of the bag with his heel, spun around and fell hard on his back.
He had to be carted off the field. X-rays revealed a left knee sprain.
This is the third on-field injury Hill has sustained this season. He sprained his shoulder at Comerica Park in June crashing into the center field wall making a tremendous running catch. Then on Aug. 10, he sustained bruised ribs in a horrific outfield collision with Akil Baddoo.
Hill hit .259 with a .702 OPS, producing three home runs, 19 runs and 14 RBIs in just 49 games.
Reinforcements en route
To fill the two roster spots, the Tigers called up infielder Isaac Paredes and outfielder Daz Cameron from Triple-A Toledo. Hinch said he expected them to arrive just before the 1:10 p.m. start Sunday.
“Flights were not friendly this morning on getting them from Toledo to Detroit and then to here,” he said.
This will be the fourth big-league stint for Paredes this season, though he’s only played in 14 games. Since coming off the injured list (hip) and being reassigned to Toledo, he’s caught fire, slashing .284/.473/.543 in 25 games with a 1.016 OPS.
Impressively, he’s walked 28 times with just 17 strikeouts in his last 110 plate appearances.
Cameron has played in 25 games with the Tigers in two previous stints. In the last 16 games at Toledo he’s hit four home runs and was slugging .508.
“I just want them to play and play well when they get the opportunity,” Hinch said. “We’re going to have a little bit of a crowded infield and outfield here, so when they get the opportunity, just play. The evaluation period is not about the last two weeks.”
Hinch said he was encouraged by how both handled their business and continued to make strides after being sent down.
“We’ve seen progress out of both of them,” he said. “I’m excited to see Paredes back up here. He’s done everything we asked of him. Daz did that, too. They have an opportunity to come up here and be free. When I put you in the lineup, just give me what you’ve got and when you’re not in the lineup, support your guys and be on the team.
“They are a part of what we’re building. Hopefully they don’t put so much pressure on these last 12 to 13 days that they vapor-lock and try to do too much.”
Down an arm?
The Tigers have carried at least one and sometimes two extra arms all season. And with the rosters expanded to 28 in September, they still have 10 relievers in the bullpen.
“We have more pitchers now than historically we’ve ever had,” Hinch said. “It’s funny how it still makes you feel like you are short.”
Hinch said Michael Fulmer, who earned his 10th save Saturday, likely would get most of the save opportunities, though he’s still going to let matchups dictate how he uses his leverage relievers. Alex Lange and Kyle Funkhouser will get more late-inning leverage work, too.
Also, Hinch expects Jose Cisnero (elbow laceration) and Joe Jimenez (COVID-19 IL) to return before the end of the season.
“Derek Holland let me know this morning that he doesn’t have a save yet in his career, but he’s willing to do it any time,” Hinch said with a chuckle.
Around the horn
Hinch said lefty starter Matthew Boyd (elbow) will be in Los Angeles early this week to meet with specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache. It will be the second visit with Dr. ElAttrache. “After that we should be able to have a definitive plan in place,” Hinch said.
…The Tigers’ 4-3 win Saturday improved their record to 6-2 in games after they’d suffered a walk-off loss the day before.
…Tigers catchers have combined for 30 home runs this season. Eric Haase has 12 in games he’s caught, Wilson Ramos and Jake Rogers hit six, Dustin Garneau has five and Grayson Greiner one. The Tigers last had 30 homers from the catching position in 1987 when Matt Nokes (28) and Mike Heath (5) combined for 33. Only the Rays (37) and Royals (31) have more home runs from that position this year.
On deck: White Sox
► Series: Three games at Comerica Park, Detroit
► First pitch: Monday-Tuesday — 6:40 p.m.; Wednesday — 1:10 p.m.
► TV/radio: Monday-Wednesday — All games on BSD/97.1 FM
► Probables: Monday — LHP Carlos Rodon (12-5, 2.38) vs. RHP Matt Manning (4-6, 5.75); Tuesday — LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-9, 5.23) vs. LHP Tyler Alexander (2-3, 4.13); Wednesday — RHP Reynaldo Lopez (3-3, 3.00) vs. RHP Casey Mize (7-8, 3.64).
► Rodon, White Sox: A no-fun day for hitters. Rodon has a 35% strikeout rate (top four percentile in baseball) and a 31% chase rate. He pitches off a 95-96 mph four-seamer but his slider is his money-maker. He’s holding hitters to a .171 average and given up just three extra-base hits off it, with 88 punch-outs in 110 plate appearances.
► Manning, Tigers: In his last start, Manning shut down the National League Central-leading Brewers on two hits and run over six innings. He got a season-best 12 swings-and-misses. His fastball was hitting 97 and his curveball, which had been a missing weapon most of the season, was snapping. By far his most encouraging outing.