Tigers place Javier Báez on 10-day IL for thumb soreness

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Saturday afternoon, the Tigers announced that shortstop Javier Báez has been placed on the 10-day injured list because of soreness in his right thumb. A corresponding roster move has yet to be announced. The move is retroactive to April 13.

The decision to move Báez to the injured list isn’t much of a surprise. He’s been scratched against both the Red Sox and the Royals with thumb soreness, leaving the Tigers with an awfully thin bench. It’s far from ideal to be without one of the best players on the team for two weeks, which is how long it will have been when he’s eligible to return. However, Detroit’s lineup is constructed for flexibility and AJ Hinch is unafraid to use his bench to get an edge late in games. Continually scratching Báez until he feels better hamstrings his ability to do that.

Through five games with the Tigers, Báez has hit .316/.350/.526, an offensive performance 55 percent above average according to wRC+. His most memorable moment in those five games was the walk-off single he banged off the outfield wall on Opening Day.

Báez initially jammed the thumb during the walkoff celebration on Opening Day. He then reinjured it days later in a game, and the thumb remained swollen pretty badly on Friday as he was scratched for the lineup. Hand injuries can really derail a hitter’s season, so as this hasn’t resolved quickly, giving the shortstop a week or so to get back to 100 percent makes sense. Hopefully the Tigers can hang in there in the meantime.

For the time being, Hittin’ Harold Castro has been the primary substitute for Báez. He’s a serviceable utility man, but a poor facsimile for Detroit’s star shortstop. If the Tigers decide to call up Zack Short, Willi Castro, or make room on the 40-man roster for top prospect Ryan Kreidler, Castro could be shifted back into his Swiss Army Knife role. It’s unlikely the team will tap into their pitching depth to fill the roster spot after swapping out Elvin Rodriguez for Wily Peralta on Friday night.

The fact that a corresponding move hasn’t been announced yet doesn’t necessarily mean that the replacement will be a player not on the 40-man roster. It’s just as possible that the team was expecting Báez’s thumb to have gotten better by now and need to make a final choice about who to call up. We’ll keep you up to date as more information comes to light. For now, indications are that Willi Castro will be the replacement, presumably with he and Harold Castro each getting some looks at shortstop.

In another bit of Saturday news, Casey Mize has been diagnosed with a medial collateral ligament sprain. An ulnar collateral ligament sprain is a precursor to Tommy John surgery, so while not ideal, this is the better outcome. Mize still seems certain to miss at least a month to ensure that he’s 100 percent, but if things progress well the Tigers should get him back rather than losing him for the season.

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