KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Detroit Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman thinks he could avoid a trip to the injured list.
“That’s not something I’m wanting to do,” Grossman said Thursday.
He took the field Thursday at Kauffman Stadium, with head athletic trainer Doug Teter watching closely, and completed a series of agility drills. He also swung his bat in the batting cages and completed other physical activities.
“I feel good, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Grossman said. “I’m making my way to getting back into the lineup. … I felt good. Today was a big step, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
AILING IN THE OF: How Tigers are handling Robbie Grossman’s groin injury
Grossman exited Tuesday’s game before the seventh inning with right groin tightness. The 32-year-old suffered the injury sliding back into first base. The MRI, which came back clean, reveled a right hip injury.
“When it first happened, I felt my groin,” Grossman said, “and that’s why I came out of the game, but as we were looking into it more, I jammed my hip pretty good sliding into the bag. I feel good. Anxious to see what happens tomorrow.”
Manager A.J. Hinch said the Tigers will decide Friday if Grossman will need to be placed on the 10-day injured list. Outfielder Daz Cameron, who opened the season with Triple-A Toledo, traveled with the team to Kansas City and is part of the taxi squad.
“We’ll see,” Hinch said Thursday. “He’s not going to start today. We’ll see how the rest of the weekend goes. Hopefully he’s able to avoid the injured list. But today was a good step froward. Day-to-day with him.”
Grossman is hitting .059 (1-for-17) with one RBI, two walks and seven strikeouts in five games. He played 156 games for the Tigers in 2021, posting team-best marks with a .357 on-base percentage, 23 home runs, 98 walks and 20 stolen bases.
THE FIRST HOMESTAND:Tigers’ Torkelson answers questions; Barnhart shines behind the plate
With Grossman sidelined, Hinch planned on left fielder Austin Meadows as his leadoff hitter against Royals right-hander Zack Greinke, a 19-year MLB veteran who returned to Kansas City this offseason on a one-year, $13 million contract.
Meadows, in his five-year career, is 1-for-9 (.111) with one home run and two strikeouts in nine plate appearances against Greinke, though he hammers right-handed pitchers. Meadows, hitting .471 with three walks and five strikeouts this season, homered off Greinke in August 2019.
“Meadows does such a good job of conducting his at-bats,” Hinch said. “I want him to get as much as bats versus right-handed pitching. Naturally, the leadoff spot is going to get the most at-bats.”
But before the first pitch, Hinch switched his lineup, making Victor Reyes the leadoff hitter.
‘They’re all rivalries’
The Tigers have played six games so far with a 2-4 record, and entered Thursday’s game tied for last place in the American League Central. The standings: Chicago White Sox (4-2) after losing to Seattle earlier in the day, Cleveland Guardians (4-2), Royals (2-3), Tigers (2-4) and Minnesota Twins (2-4).
“When you’re trying to win in your division, they’re all rivalries,” Hinch said.
Last season, the Tigers had an 8-11 record against the Royals.
The Tigers finished 77-85 overall in 2021 for third place in the AL Central, while the Royals were three games behind them, at 74-88. Detroit went 30-46 within the division but 18-14 against the AL East and 18-16 against the AL West.
This year, both the Tigers and Royals are poised to challenge the White Sox. Here’s how FanGraphs projects the AL Central standings: White Sox (88-74), Twins (80-82), Guardians (79-83), Royals (75-87) and Tigers (74-88).
“I see this team mirroring us, or us mirroring them, with some good young talent to infuse the roster,” Hinch said of the Royals. “The front offices have gone out and spent some money trying to improve areas that they have been deficient in. Good young pitching. We’re going to see that over the course of this series on both sides. Two teams that are tired of being at the bottom of the division. All that stuff mirrors itself. Both of us are trying to re-enter the AL Central conversation.”
What Skubal needs to do
The Tigers’ young pitching will be on display against the Royals, with right-hander Casey Mize starting Thursday, left-hander Tarik Skubal starting Friday and righty Matt Manning getting the nod Saturday, with lefty Tyler Alexander finishing out the series Sunday.
“I’m going to go out there and compete, get ahead (in counts),” Skubal said. “Getting ahead early, and that’s not just throwing it down the middle, but quality pitches early in the count can help me get to two strikes earlier and get guys uncomfortable and put away where I want them. That’s the plan.”
Skubal is matched up with Royals righty Brad Keller, a 26-year-old in his fifth MLB season. In his first start, the 25-year-old Skubal allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and one walk with three strikeouts in four innings.
The Tigers lost, 10-1, to the White Sox.
Skubal’s pitch mix stood out in his first start: 37 four-seam fastballs (47%), 22 changeups (28%), seven curveballs (9%), seven sinkers (9%) and six sliders (8%). He fired 50 of 79 pitches for strikes.
He essentially ditched his slider — which he turned to 22.8% of the time last season with a 29.1% swing-and-miss rate — for a heavy fastball-changeup combo.
That will change.
“The slider needs to be thrown a lot more, no matter righty or lefty,” Skubal said. “I’m going to put a little more emphasis on the slider. Tucker (Barnhart, catcher) knows that. He’s going to be back there tomorrow. Regardless of who it is, I’m going to go out there and pitch the way I do, and let the results be where they may.”
Báez scratched (again)
The Tigers had planned for shortstop Javier Báez, who missed Wednesday’s game with right thumb soreness, to play in the series opener. He was scheduled to hit third in the batting order against Greinke.
“Javy’s good,” Hinch said. “He’s going to hit and make sure nothing happens during BP (batting practice). But he should be good.”
After batting practice, though, the Tigers scratched Báez for the second day in a row. Harold Castro replaced him as the starting shortstop.
The 29-year-old is hitting .316 (6-for-19) with one home run, four RBIs, one walk and four strikeouts in five games. He signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Tigers this past offseason.