The list of Detroit Tigers rehabbing in Triple-A Toledo is about to grow by one, as left-hander Tyler Alexander is scheduled to throw three innings for the Mud Hens on Monday.
After that, manager A.J. Hinch said, Alexander will take a few days off, and the Tigers will decide then how to proceed with his rehab, while trying to stretch out his stamina.
“At the four-inning mark, we’ll make a decision,” Hinch said. “He’ll get at least a couple of outings in Toledo before we, before we decide what to do.”
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Alexander made 15 starts for the Tigers last season, as part of his 41 appearances, then started this season in the rotation when free-agent signee Michael Pineda wasn’t ready for the Opening Day roster. Alexander made four starts before going to the injured list on May 2 with a left elbow sprain. After posting a 3.38 ERA over 66⅔ innings as a starter in 2021, the 27-year-old had an 8.76 ERA in 12⅓ innings this year, throwing his spot in the rotation into question.
“Our original plan was to have him be a bulk reliever when he came back,” Hinch said. “And then, we’re a couple injuries more deep into the rotation issues.”
Alexander and Pineda are two of five Tigers starters currently on the 10-day IL, along with right-handers Casey Mize and Matt Manning and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. Right-hander Spencer Turnbull is on the 60-day IL after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season.
Alexander said he feels good and has the ability to fully rotate his elbow through his pitches.
“All the throwing I did in Florida, we had all the cameras in the world on it,” Alexander said Sunday. “I was doing it, and it didn’t hurt.”
Alexander has spent most of May working at the Tigers’ training complex in Lakeland, Florida.
“Took a week off, took a bunch of pills, rehabbed it in Florida, built up slowly in a throwing program,” Alexander said Sunday. “It was good.”
As for Monday’s appearance against the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate) on the road?
“I got what I got tomorrow, and then we’ll see,” Alexander said.
Alexander’s rehab session in Lakeland overlapped with a few other injured Tigers: catcher Jake Rogers, outfielder Riley Greene and infielder Ryan Kreidler.
“I didn’t face Rog; Rog, he caught me. (Greene) and, I faced Kreidler, about five times each.
“They put some good swings on it. They didn’t get BP before, so I’m gonna cut ’em some slack.”
Kreidler returned from hand surgery to Toledo’s roster on Friday, going 1-for-4 with a double. Greene began a rehab stint with Low-A Lakeland on Friday as well, going 0-for-3 in five innings in right field. On Saturday, he started at designated hitter and went 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs. The 21-year-old is expected to continue his rehab with Toledo soon, with a potential MLB debut in June. Hinch has said Greene will be the Tigers’ starting center fielder when he’s fully recovered from a broken foot suffered at the end of spring training.
Miguel Cabrera sits for series finale
Of course, the injury bug continued to nip at the Tigers, with designated hitter Miguel Cabrera exiting Saturday’s loss to the Guardians in the eighth inning with back tightness. The 39-year-old went 0-for-3 to drop his batting average to .294, which is still second among Tigers on the 26-man roster. Cabrera sat to start Sunday’s game against the Guardians, replaced at DH by Robbie Grossman.
“He’s still sore, but he’s doing better than when he left,” Hinch said. “I was pretty concerned with how he was moving yesterday, and we agreed to talk this morning and see how he was doing. Today when I saw him, he was in much better spirits and doing a little bit better.”
Cabrera has appeared in 40 of the Tigers’ 45 games this season with three homers, six doubles and a team-high 18 RBIs. The slugger was on pace to play in 144 games this season; he hasn’t topped 136 appearances since 2016. But Hinch didn’t sound concerned about Cabrera’s long-term prospects.
“We’ve all had sore backs, especially lower backs,” Hinch said. “It’s hard to maneuver around, so he’s not gonna play today. Hopefully another day of treatment will make it better.”
Candy not so sweet
Also sitting out Sunday was third baseman Jeimer Candelario. The 28-year-old, who was named Tiger of the Year for the past two seasons, has struggled this season, with a slash line of .188/.247./.318.
Starting in his place was Harold Castro, who is hitting .311 in May with back-to-back three-hit games (on Wednesday and Saturday). Castro also has some history with Sunday’s starter for Cleveland, Triston McKenzie.
“First off, Harold was a hero last year, we didn’t get no-hit by McKenzie,” Hinch said.
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Castro singled with two outs in the eighth inning on Aug. 15 to break up McKenzie’s no-no bid in an eventual 11-0 win by Cleveland.
“So he’s gonna get another few hits today, that’s my prediction,” Hinch joked.
Castro’s more recent success is in stark contrast to Candelario’s struggles. He went 1-for-4 Saturday, part of a seven-game stretch in which Candelario is 2-for-22.
“Jeimer has had a really rough go of it. There’s been glimpses of the same hitter we had last year. He’s got it in him. We have a ton of belief in him, but he’s caught so much in between, from a bat speed standpoint, exit velocity standpoint and, ultimately, production. It’s been a total grind for him. I think it’s impacted his whole game and I don’t blame him. I know how tough it is to struggle, especially when you are constantly in the middle of the order.
“I’m not sure if a day off helps,” Hinch continued. “Today was more about Harold and continuing to give the hot bat a chance, but our best team has Jeimer doing more productive things in the field.”
Candelario hit .271 last season with an MLB-high 42 doubles, including a May in which he hit .311 with eight doubles. In May 2022, however, Candelario is hitting .212 with three doubles.
Eric Haase behind the plate
Another Tiger whose 2022 has been a harsh sequel to 2021 got the start Sunday, as Eric Haase took over for Tucker Barnhart. Haase, a Dearborn Divine Child alumnus, is hitting .169 with two homers in 65 at-bats this year. Still, his numbers aren’t that far off from what he had at this time last season: Entering May 29, 2021, Haase was hitting .227 with two homers in 44 at-bats. Of course, last year was his first extended time in the majors, as he was called up from Triple-A on May 13, 2021.
The Tigers’ schedule will be hectic this week, with a five-game series against the Minnesota Twins compressed into four days beginning Monday. It includes a doubleheader Tuesday, and day games following night games Tuesday and Thursday. The Tigers then have a three-game series in New York from Friday-Sunday, meaning Haase should spell Barnhart a bit more often.
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“He’s gonna get a little more playing time this week, but generally he just hasn’t been able to get started,” Hinch said. “Another one of our guys that’s swung around the margins of the strike zone and hasn’t had a ton to show for it.”
Haase’s stellar rookie campaign — he finished 2021 with 25 homers — kicked into high gear in June, when he had two homers on June 1 in Milwaukee, part of a stretch that featured six home runs in six games from June 1-8.
“He’s been a streaky hitter in the past; we sure would like him to catch, catch fire a little bit and hit the ball, y’know, a little harder and a little more often,” Hinch said Sunday. “But he’s very hard on himself and he wants to do so well.”
Haase, last July’s AL Rookie of the Month, has just one extra-base hit in May 2022, a homer against the Baltimore Orioles on May 14.
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