Tigers’ AJ Hinch: ‘We’re a different team’ with Jeimer Candelario, Eric Haase hitting for power

Detroit News

Detroit — The Detroit Tigers are going through a bit of a power surge — at least by their standards, anyway.

In the last two games, the Tigers have hit five homers. Three of them have come off the bat of Jeimer Candelario, one from Miguel Cabrera and another came by way of Eric Haase, whose grand slam against San Diego turned a tie game into a 5-1 lead.

Candelario homered again Tuesday night in a 6-4 loss to the Padres. His five hits in the previous two days are the most hits in any two-day stretch by the Tigers’ struggling third baseman this season. He’s seeing the benefits of taking the All-Star break — and his tough goings at the plate — seriously, Tigers manager AJ Hinch said before the series finale against San Diego on Wednesday.

“(I) gave him three or four days off before leading into the break. He took the whole break and went home and hit on his own and did some things to take care of in the second half,” Hinch said.

The Tigers’ inability to hit the long ball this season is well documented. Their five home runs over the last two games have drawn Detroit’s total on the season to 59, which is still 17 homers behind 29th-place Cleveland.

Haase’s turnaround has resided more in the on-base department than a pure power standpoint — he’s hitting .325/.382/.625 over his last 27 games, with six home runs and six doubles.

“If more guys can warm up and contribute the way that Candy and Haase have, then obviously, we’re gonna have a deeper lineup and a better lineup,” Hinch said. “We’re pretty far behind in the home-run race when it comes to teams, and we’ve put that together in the last few days that have made our team a little bit more interesting.

Back on track

As Tarik Skubal takes the mound on Wednesday amid recent rumors that he’ll be available at the trade deadline, Hinch said that he’s not too worried about the noise impacting Skubal’s game.

“I think nowadays, there’s not a guy who’s not discussed at some level,” Hinch said. “I haven’t spent any time inside talking about it; it’s kind of one of those unspoken things. I guess if it was bothering somebody, they’d come in, but we got a pretty tall task in front of us with some of the guys he’s gonna face (on Wednesday). I don’t think he’s that worried.”

What Hinch and Skubal may be focused on, though, is Skubal’s mechanics. He got back to his early-season ways in his last start against Oakland with no earned runs, two hits and nine strikeouts over six innings pitched, and is looking to duplicate that in Wednesday’s matinee.

“Obviously, mechanics speak to consistency, and when he’s synced up and not doing too much, but doing enough to create some energy down the hill, he’s a different pitcher,” Hinch said.

Hinch said that Skubal’s size — at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds — can be a double-edged sword when it comes to finding his groove on the mound.

“When he gets out of whack, you see him spray the ball. He doesn’t land in the same spot; his front side gets a little bit too big. There’s just a lot of moving parts with him as a big, physical guy,” Hinch said. “Trying to dial it back sometimes impacts his velocity, so it’s always a little bit of a cat-and-mouse game with him.

“But when he’s synced up and throws strike one, the hitters have a hard time adjusting to the slider.”

The gone, the hurt and the healthy

You can officially say goodbye to the hope of Spencer Turnbull taking the mound for Detroit this year.

Turnbull, who turns 30 in September, had Tommy John surgery almost one year ago to the day (July 29) after opening the 2021 season with a 2.88 ERA — and a no-hitter — in nine starts.

“I don’t think Turnbull’s gonna pitch this season, based on where we’re at, based on where he’s at,” Hinch said. “It’s a slow rise. We’d have to have a sprint finish to get him into a game in September. That’s probably not wise for us or wise for him.”

Along with outfielder Austin Meadows and fellow backstop Dustin Garneau (groin), Tigers catcher Jake Rogers (elbow) was one of a few players to take live batting practice off Joey Wentz (shoulder strain) in Lakeland on Tuesday.

Hinch said that Meadows, who is rehabbing after dealing with a variety of injuries sustained this season, still has “no timeline” for return.

“We’re gonna see him on this road trip in Minnesota,” Hinch said. “I think he’s gonna rejoin us so we can see, physically, where he’s at. He’s still in Lakeland, doing a lot of rehab. He hasn’t run yet. We’re gonna hope to initiate that when he gets to us in Minnesota for a few days before we can hopefully get him out playing.

“It bothers everybody that he’s not progressing faster, and we’re getting to the point in the season where we’re gonna have to test him more aggressively for us to salvage the season.”

Around the horn

… Right-handed starter Matt Manning (shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to make a rehab start in Toledo on Wednesday. Hinch said that he’s hoping Manning goes five innings.

… Hinch said that the Tigers plan to use their 15th starter of the season this weekend in Toronto and that he’ll announce the player who will be getting the bump on Friday after Wednesday’s game.

… It’s now become official that right-handed starter Alex Faedo (hip) and right-handed reliever Kyle Funkhouser (shoulder) will need season-ending surgeries. Hinch said over the weekend that they would be shut down for the remainder of the year but was uncertain about whether they would require surgery. Hinch said “the hope would be that they would be available” when spring rolls around next year.

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