Detroit – Is it really possible the Tigers are at yet another crossroads with third baseman Jeimer Candelario?
After back-to-back productive seasons, after leading the Major Leagues with 42 doubles last season and being named Tiger of the Year by the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America in 2020 and 2021, Candelario seems again to be barely hanging on to his everyday role.
He went into the game Saturday hitting .190. He hasn’t started a game hitting at or above .200 since May 20. His batting average has been below .200 since the third game of the season. In 220 plate appearances, he has produced just seven doubles, two triples, five home runs and 18 RBI.
“He’s too good a hitter to carry this performance this far,” manager AJ Hinch said on Friday.
In the month of June, Candelario went 7 for 36, with two extra-base hits and nine strikeouts. The month was interrupted by a stint on the injured list after his left shoulder popped out after he made a diving attempt on a ball hit down the line.
Hinch believes that injury might still be hindering him, especially when he’s hitting right-handed. Which is why it was encouraging that Candelario got two hits in San Francisco, one against lefty Carlos Rodon.
“That was something to build on,” Hinch said. “When he came back, we faced a run of left-handed pitchers. Which is what we were most concerned about coming back off the injury — with the left shoulder, hitting right-handed was uncomfortable.
“But he is a guy who needs repetitions to get going. But the more he stays in the strike zone, the better he’s going to hit. We saw a little glimpse of some good days.”
Eventually, when outfielder Austin Meadows gets back, Willi Castro is likely going to get some playing time back in the infield. If Candelario continues to scuffle, Castro’s at-bats could come at third base.
Besides some lingering discoloring on his cheek, Spencer Torkelson was no worse for wear Saturday after taking an 88-mph change-up from Royals Brad Keller off the side of his helmet Friday night.
“All good,” he said. “That’s probably the first time I took one off the helmet. Luckily the C-flap saved me.”
The C-shaped helmet attachment that runs along the jaw line seemed to absorb most of the contact.
“I shrugged up and you can see on the video, the C-flap getting pushed up a little bit. It ricocheted off that,” Torkelson said. “I knew something hit my face. Thank God it was the C-flap. It rang my bell a little bit, as it would anyone.
“It was just precautionary that they took me out of the game.”
Torkelson said he got a text message from Keller last night.
“He was really apologetic,” Torkelson said. “I was like, ‘No big deal. It’s part of the game, sadly.’”
Torkelson did not start Saturday, but Hinch said he would not hesitate to use him off the bench.
Around the horn
… Starting pitcher Matt Manning (shoulder) threw a bullpen Saturday and Hinch said everything came out well. It was the first time he’s thrown off the mound since his rehab stint was shut down last month. Eventually, Manning will pitch against Low-A hitters for Lakeland and then have the rehab assignment transferred to Triple-A Toledo. The hope is Manning will continue to progress and be able to return to the rotation in early August.
… Reliever Jose Cisnero (shoulder) is scheduled to make a rehab outing for Toledo on Sunday.
Royals at Tigers, Comerica Park
TV/Radio: Peacock, 97.1.
RHP Brady Singer (3-3, 4.50), Royals: He started the season in the bullpen, which was a surprise. This will be his ninth start and he’s coming off a rough month. In five June starts he was tagged for 19 earned runs and seven home runs in 28.2 innings. Hitters slugged .509 off him. His bread and butter is still the sinker (93-94 mph) and slider combination. He’s getting a 39% whiff rate with the slider.
LHP Tarik Skubal (5-6, 3.75), Tigers: If you are looking for clues as to what’s gone off the rails in his last five starts, check the walks. In his first 10 starts he walked 10 hitters. In the last five, he’s walked 11. Not coincidentally, he’s 1-4 with a 7.46 ERA in those starts with opponents hitting .301 with a .908 OPS against him.