The Tigers have a couple of injury situations to monitor, as relayed by Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press. Infielder Tyler Nevin removed himself from batting practice yesterday and reported feeling soreness in his oblique. Meanwhile, fellow infielder Andy Ibáñez sprained the fourth finger on his left hand while preparing for the World Baseball Classic.
In Nevin’s case, the severity of the issue isn’t yet known, but oblique issues are notoriously tricky to deal with. As Petzold points out, even a mild oblique strain can potentially lead to a month-long absence. Manager A.J. Hinch says that Nevin is headed for an MRI, which will determine the next steps. In the case of Ibáñez, the issue seems less concerning. Though his finger is swollen, it’s not broken. Ibáñez plans to sit out of WBC action for a few days and seems confident he’ll be recovered after that.
These two injuries could potentially have implications for the club’s plans, as both players are part of a competition for the open third base job. The club non-tendered Jeimer Candelario in the winter and has various players jockeying for the role of his replacement. At this point, it seems the most likely scenario involves the left-handed hitting Nick Maton taking the strong side of a platoon. Maton actually has reverse splits in his career so far, but in a small sample of 216 plate appearances.
Both Nevin and Ibáñez hit from the right side and could potentially take the small side of a platoon with Maton, though the injuries could delay that plan. If those two players have to miss any time, it perhaps increases the chances of Andre Lipcius, Ryan Kreidler, Zack Short or César Hernández seizing some playing time. Hernández is a switch-hitter with the other three all hitting right-handed.
“I like the way he swings the bat, and he’s increasing his versatility, which is the point of camp for him,” Hinch said about Lipcius. “He’s doing what he’s always done.” Lipcius has primarily played third base in the minors, but has also seen some decent time at second and a very brief stint at first. He hit .277/.391/.435 between Double-A and Triple-A last year for a wRC+ of 128. He’s yet to make his major league debut but was added to the 40-man roster in November.
Elsewhere in Tigers’ camp, Trevor Rosenthal will be attempting to get back to the big leagues after signing a minor league deal with the club. He wasn’t able to appear in either of the past two seasons due to various setbacks, including thoracic outlet surgery, hip labrum surgery and a recurring hamstring injury. Though Rosenthal will be hoping for better health this year, it seems there’s still some work to do and his return isn’t imminent.
“There’s no need to have a sense for a timeline,” Hinch tells Petzold. “It does not matter when he’s ready as long as he’s healthy. We’re not going to push it. There is no artificial date. Opening Day is not something that’s feasible. We’re going to be very strict and diligent with our work with him.”
Rosenthal says the injuries are behind him now, but he’s on board with the plan the club has laid out for him. “I want to be intentional about taking the right steps and making sure I am ready, and really utilizing the time that’s left in camp,” Rosenthal says. “I think, in these three weeks, I’ll be able to get to where I want to be, but if not, I think they’re going to do a good job of taking care of me in that regard.”
He hasn’t been healthy much in the past few years, but he was very good earlier in his career and dominant for a brief spell in 2020. He made 23 appearances that year with a 1.90 ERA and struck out an incredible 41.8% of batters faced. However, the two years on either side of that season were were essentially lost due to the aforementioned injuries.