Chicago — Rom Lipcius would probably have been content with a card and phone call, but his son Andre went all out for his birthday on Thursday night.
Playing in Toledo for the Mud Hens, Andre Lipcius slugged a home run. Later that night, he was able to tell him that he was going to The Show, that he’d earned his first call-up to the Tigers.
Happy birthday, pops.
“Yeah, I thought the home run was enough,” Andre said, laughing.
Lipcius and right-handed reliever Miguel Diaz were both called-up Thursday night, rounding out the Tigers’ 28-player September roster.
“The whole thing was just really crazy,” Lipcius said. “Getting called up and it was also my dad’s birthday. Just seeing how excited they were. It honestly hasn’t hit me yet but seeing their reactions made it more surreal for me.”
Lipcius, 25 and the Tigers’ third-round pick in 2019, earned his promotion by slashing .343/.438/.612 with a 1.049 OPS in August.
“We’re pretty excited with the work our Triple-A staff did with him,” manager AJ Hinch said. “From early June on, after we challenged him to make a few adjustments, some attention-to-detail stuff to really get him locked in on how he could impact a Major League roster, he dominated.
“That’s a really good sign for someone who has hit his whole career.”
Through the end of May, Lipcius was hitting just .227 and slugging .343. He had to miss about three weeks in July with an oblique issue. Then he caught fire.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” he said. “I was able to mentally reset. I went to Florida, hung out with some of my buddies and got my body feeling good and mentally reset. I was ready to go when I came back.”
Hinch said Lipcius would be available off the bench on Friday but would be in the starting lineup at third base Saturday. Hinch will also use him at second base and to give Spencer Torkelson a day off or two at first base.
Diaz, 28, who pitched in three games for the Tigers last September, is also coming up on the strength of a strong showing in August.
He allowed just two earned runs in 11.2 innings with 18 strikeouts and four walks.
“I’ve been waiting for this (call) for a long time,” he said.
He was one of the last players cut this spring. And as Hinch said before the game, he was in the discussion for a call-up earlier in the season, as well. But that call didn’t come until Thursday.
“I’m not an emotional guy,” Diaz said. “I just take it easy and just go do my job. Now is my time. I have to take advantage of that and try to help the team.”
Diaz’s ability to add a quality slider to his fastball-changeup mix sealed the deal.
“The big thing that was holding him back and why he’s gone back and forth has been his struggle to find the right spin,” Hinch said. “He’s had a slower breaking ball but in Triple-A he could dominate with a fastball and changeup. Hopefully this adjustment will do it.
“Outside of a month in the middle of the season, he’s was dominant…Strike-throwing is the key. His money-maker is the changeup but if he has another weapon, it will help.”
Shortstop Javier Báez, still feeling under the weather, didn’t start for the third straight game Friday. Hinch said he planned to put Báez back in the lineup Saturday but not Sunday.
As the rosters expand, Báez’s playing time down the stretch will be curtailed.
“We’re going to build a routine over the next seven to 10 days while we give some of his at-bats away,” Hinch said. “We’ve added more bodies and it’s going to create some playing time dilemmas. Playing time is going to be at a premium.
“So if Javy is not 100 percent, it is best for us and for him to play a little more sporadically than we’re used to.”
Hinch said Báez understood but he was anxious to finish the season strong and go into the offseason on a positive note.
“We’re going to balance all of that day-to-day,” he said.
Around the horn
… The Tigers are going to give right-hander Casey Mize a few days off his throwing program. Mize, recovering from Tommy John surgery and a back procedure, stopped his last live bullpen session after 18 pitches on Wednesday. According to the Tigers’ medical update, Mize was dealing with shoulder fatigue and will, “complete a period of rest and re-assess to resume throwing early next week.”
Tigers at White Sox
When: Saturday, 7:15 p.m., Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago
RHP Reese Olson (2-6, 5.10), Tigers: The Yankees got a full dose of how good his slider can be on Thursday. He punched out 10 hitters in 4.1 innings, getting 11 whiffs on 16 swings at his slider. He was pairing it off a 95-mph sinker that got 10 called strikes. It took him 100 pitches to get to 4.1 innings, though. Eye-popping results, less than optimum efficiency.
RHP Mike Clevinger (6-6, 3.32), White Sox: He’s been a Tiger-tamer over the years, 8-2 with a 1.63 ERA in 14 outings, 13 starts. That includes five shutout innings at Comerica Park in June. He’s still doing serious business throwing his slow slider (79-80 mph) of a 94-mph four-seamer. Opponents are hitting .173 with a 32% whiff rate against the slider. Left-handed hitters get the changeup, also a plus pitch (.182 opponent average).