Detroit Tigers getting healthy. So despite disappointing series, they’re still in this race.

Detroit Free Press

Jake Rogers was sitting in front of his locker in the Detroit Tigers clubhouse.

“What does it mean to get all these guys back?” I asked him.

Rogers leaned back in his chair and broke into a smile.

“The boys are back together,” he said on Thursday afternoon after the Tigers’ 9-0 victory over the Oakland A’s.

Not yet.

Not completely.

But it’s close.

Tarik Skubal returned to the Tigers on Tuesday looking absolutely fantastic — when he’s right, he’s an absolute stud. Eduardo Rodriguez returned on Wednesday, shook off some rust and walked away healthy. Akil Baddoo and Alex Faedo will join the Tigers Friday night, and Riley Greene is expected to return this weekend.

“When we have people coming back, especially big components of this team, like Riley, and Baddoo, and E-Rod and Skub, it kind of brightens everybody’s mood,” Rogers said.

As frustrating as these Tigers can be.

See the first two games against the Oakland A’s.

As bad and as inconsistent as this offense can be.

See well, too many games to count.

As the injuries mounted and the Tigers started relying on guys you never in a million years thought they would need to rely on.

See, well, Jake Marisnick.

Suddenly, this team is getting healthy, the mood has brightened, and the reinforcements should bring both a surge of talent and a boost of confidence.

“It gives us a lot of confidence to get those guys back and getting them back in the swing of things is just big for us,” outfielder Matt Vierling said. “At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of confidence with those guys out there, so getting those guys back kind of helps get it back.”

Staggered but not knocked out

When Greene suffered a stress reaction in his left fibula at the end of May, the Tigers were two games back in the American League Central.

But Greene’s injury was like a punch in the jaw. The Tigers staggered and fell, losing 11 of 12, which has skewed perceptions. Since then, they have regained their composure, even though it might not feel like it.

Give A.J. Hinch credit for that. He has kept this team from falling apart after all these injuries.

Since June 15, the end of that horrible losing stretch, they have won 11 of 20 games. And in this rotten division, that kind of string will keep you in the race.

Getting back Greene should be a huge lift to this inconsistent offense. He hit .365 in May, with three homers, nine doubles and a triple for a 1.008 OPS.

And remember, this team was 16-11 in May when Baddoo and Greene were cooking.

CARLOS MONARREZ: Eduardo Rodriguez’s return to Tigers feels like a train to nowhere

This team has the potential to put together that kind of run in July.

Seriously.

Since Greene’s injury, the Tigers have lost ground in the AL Central.

But not significantly.

They are still within striking distance, six games out of first as of Friday morning.

After a month off, it would be hard for Greene to hit the ground running and put this team on his back again, but he did go 5-for-5 in a rehab start Wednesday night with Toledo.

“I told him to save some of those hits,” Spencer Torkelson said, breaking into a smile.

Still have a chance in bad division

This team can be frustrating and maddening.

They could go on a horrible losing streak, dropping games they shouldn’t like against Oakland, and I wouldn’t be shocked. Or it could put together a fine winning streak in July, and I wouldn’t be surprised, either.

Think about this rotation: Skubal, Rodriguez and Michael Lorenzen — the All Star who is an All-Star only because Rodriguez was hurt.

Now, add in Faedo, Matt Manning, Reese Olson and Beau Brieske.

That’s a group of pitchers that can win more than it loses.

In this division, that’s all you need.

This team still has a chance to make things interesting this summer, assuming several things:

1. If neither the Twins or the Guardians get hot;

2. If the Tigers stop wasting opportunities like they had against the A’s;

3. If the Tigers stay healthy and their reinforcements return to form quickly;

4. And if Scott Harris doesn’t trade away everybody at the deadline.

Is it probable? No. I’d be shocked if Rodriguez is still on this team after the deadline.

But staying close and making things interesting is possible, all because of of two reasons:

It’s a bad division.

But mainly, as Rogers put it so eloquently, the boys are back together.

Contact Jeff Seidel at jseidel@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

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