Kansas City, Mo. — As manager AJ Hinch was talking to the media a couple hours before game time Saturday, he was mulling whether shortstop Javier Báez would need to be placed on the 10-day injured list.
“He’s still really sore,” he said. “I don’t see how he plays (Sunday) and with the off day (Monday), it’s almost too enticing to give him a full, full rest. But we have to make a decision fairly quickly on how far this is going to go and whether he’s going to be available for the Yankees series.
“If he’s not going to be available for the Yankees series we have to consider a roster move.”
An hour later the Tigers announced that Báez, indeed, will go on the injured list, retroactive to April 13. He will miss the upcoming homestand against the Yankees and Rockies that starts Tuesday. It was the last thing Báez wanted, but the swelling in his right thumb has not relented even after missing the last three games before Sunday.
“Javy always wants to play,” Hinch said. “That’s not a question. He’s not asking out of the lineup. He’s unavailable. The more sore he is the more it gives me pause to put him back in there. It takes one swing to blow it back up to where we were four or five days ago. It’s really tricky with a thumb injury.
“(Royals starter) Kris Bubic will throw a ton of cutters to us today. I could put Javy out there and make everyone feel better at the front end of the day, but one swing could take us back 10 days.”
The Tigers didn’t immediately announce who’d be coming up to replace him, but infielder Willi Castro was pulled from the Toledo Mud Hens lineup before their game Sunday in Iowa. He would be the logical replacement.
Hinch was asked about the possibility of prospect Ryan Kreidler getting the call, but the fact that he’s not on the 40-man roster presents a dilemma. The Tigers would have to designate a player for assignment to make room for him.
On Friday night the Tigers designated reliever Bryan Garcia for assignment to add Wily Peralta.
In the meantime, Harold Castro started his fourth straight game at shortstop Saturday.
Báez said Friday that he initially jammed the thumb on Opening Day during the on-field celebration of his walk-off single.
The Tigers placed starting pitcher Casey Mize on the injured list before the game on Friday and Hinch said the tentative plan is to slide veteran right-hander Michael Pineda into that slot in the rotation, perhaps as soon as Wednesday.
Pineda will not make his scheduled rehab start for the Mud Hens Sunday in Iowa.
“He will be an option to pitch in the Yankees series,” Hinch said.
With the off day Monday, and with Mize out, Hinch said he and pitching coach Chris Fetter might reconfigure the rotation. Pineda, who signed late and then was delayed by visa issues, has thrown up to four innings in his rehab starts.
As for Mize, Hinch said the tests confirmed that he has a sprained medical collateral ligament in his right elbow.
“He’s not feeling as sore today as he was yesterday, which is a good sign,” Hinch said. “But I don’t know what that means for next seven to 10 days other than he will start treatment.
“It’s just real frustrating for him because he worked so hard to be ready.”
Around the horn
Hinch also said that lefty reliever Andrew Chafin took a step forward. Throwing in extending spring training in Lakeland, he threw a 30-pitch bullpen and had no issues with his strained left groin. He will throw live batting practice in a couple of days and then make a rehab appearance for Low-A Lakeland.
… Center fielder Derek Hill (right hamstring) started his rehab assignment in Lakeland Friday. He is expected to promoted up to Toledo early next week.
… Rookie right-hander Elvin Rodriguez, who was optioned to Toledo Friday night, is expected transition to the Mud Hens rotation.
Tigers at Royals
►First pitch: 2:10 p.m. Sunday, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
►LHP Tyler Alexander (0-0, 5.06), Tigers: Alexander suppressed the Red Sox on one hit through five innings in his first start, but ran into a four-hit, three-run buzzsaw in the sixth. With Casey Mize on the IL, Alexander will likely remain in the rotation even with Michael Pineda likely to be activated soon.
►RHP Carlos Hernandez (0-0, 8.31), Royals: He had the misfortune of opening his season against the hottest hitting team in baseball (Cleveland). He didn’t get through the fifth, allowing four runs. He has a five-pitch mix but he lives off his 95-mph four-seam fastball and slider combination.