Before Wednesday’s game, Detroit Tigers outfielder Kerry Carpenter tweaked his back while taking swings. He tried to run in the outfield with his teammates but ended up leaving the field and meeting with athletic trainer Doug Teter in the dugout.
On Thursday, the Tigers placed Carpenter on the injured list with a left lumbar spine strain. The injury ends Carpenter’s breakout season after 31 games (and six home runs) in the big leagues. Right-hander Matt Manning, who missed his start Wednesday, landed on the injured list, as well, with a right forearm strain.
“My lower left back,” Carpenter said. “There’s inflammation in there. Thank goodness it’s nothing structural. Just putting pressure on my left leg, it hurt pretty badly, so I told them about it. That was that.”
Carpenter, 25, hit .252 with a .795 OPS for the Tigers this season, after playing 63 games for Double-A Erie and 35 games for Triple-A Toledo. He crushed 30 homers in the minor leagues, combining for a 1.025 OPS.
The former 19th-round draft pick, a left-handed hitter, logged a .263 batting average (with 10 of his 11 extra-base hits) against right-handed pitchers. The Tigers, meanwhile, were one of the worst teams in baseball against righties.
Carpenter will compete for a spot on the 2023 Opening Day roster in spring training.
“We can confidently say he’s put himself on the map and earned his way up there,” Hinch said. “The key — and you’re going to hear this a lot when we talk about players — is he’s got to continue to make good decisions at the plate. … The quality of at-bats and the swing decisions are going to be two key points for him.”
With Manning’s placement on the injured list, his season is over after 12 starts and 63 innings in the majors. He also made seven starts, accounting for 22⅓ innings, in the minor leagues as part of rehab assignments.
“He’ll go and run the circuit of tests,” Hinch said. “He’s going to end up going back home to Sacramento and get his offseason started.”
Manning, 24, missed more than three months with a shoulder injury earlier this season and posted a 3.43 ERA with 19 walks and 48 strikeouts for the Tigers. At times, Manning dominated opponents with his fastball and slider. Other times, he failed to execute the game plan.
“His good days are electric,” Hinch said. “His not-good days are often searching for whatever that combo is of how to use his stuff and how to get the feel for it. I like where Matt Manning is at. We wish we would’ve had a little longer with him this season. He wishes that, too. But he’s still trending in the right direction.”
Replacing Carpenter and Manning, the Tigers promoted utility player Kody Clemens and right-handed reliever Miguel Díaz from Triple-A Toledo. Since Manning hit the 60-day injured list, a spot on the 40-man roster opened for Diaz to join.
Clemens, however, was already on the 40-man; the 26-year-old hit .150 with four homers in 50 games for the Tigers this season, along with making six pitching appearances. The Mud Hens ended their season Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Kody had been rerouted through Dallas,” Hinch said. “He went to Houston for a few hours, got back on a plane and came back. He knew to be ready in case something happened. I don’t think Kody knew he had to travel to Houston to find out. The timing was bizarre.”
Díaz, 27, is a new face to the Tigers’ clubhouse.
He pitched over 100 innings in parts of four seasons for the San Diego Padres, from 2017-19 and in 2021, but elected free agency last November. The Tigers signed him to a minor-league contract in March.
“I was (surprised), but in the second half, I did a good job,” Díaz said. “They told me a couple days ago, but I was surprised because it wasn’t supposed to be today. Maybe Sunday. I’m happy to be here.”
In Triple-A, Díaz posted a 4.29 ERA with 30 walks and 69 strikeouts over 65 innings in 58 games. The second half of the Mud Hens’ season began July 22, and dating back to then, he has a 2.88 ERA with seven walks and 38 strikeouts in 25 innings.
Díaz has allowed one run with one walk and 25 strikeouts over 15 innings since Aug. 31.
“I was trying to make my pitches and throw different pitches,” Díaz said. “I’m throwing a two-seam (fastball), and I have a really good changeup (with a new grip). I think right now it’s better than last year. My fastball command is better, too. I made a good adjustment.”
The Tigers have an opening in the starting rotation, created by Manning’s injury, for Monday’s game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Right-handers Bryan Garcia and Elvin Rodriguez are candidates to start.
Garcia and Rodriguez are working out in Toledo.
The Tigers also need a starting pitcher for Tuesday’s doubleheader.
“Maybe,” Hinch said of using Garcia or Rodriguez as Tuesday’s 27th player. “Not necessarily, but maybe.”
For the first time since May 5, Akil Baddoo is batting in the leadoff spot.
To be clear, the 24-year-old hasn’t stolen the job from rookie standout Riley Greene. The top of the batting order for Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals — Baddoo (left-handed hitter), Greene (LHH), Javier Báez (RHH), Harold Castro (LHH) — is a new strategy implemented by Hinch. The Royals could have a difficult decision in the late innings.
When the lineup rolls over, Baddoo could force the Royals to bring a left-handed pitcher into the game. Because of the three batter minimum, the lefty pitcher would be forced to face Greene and Báez.
Greene is batting .298 against lefties; Báez is batting .305 against them.