Tigers Notes: Baez, Kreidler, McKinstry, Flaherty

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Javier Báez’s rough season continues, as the Tigers placed the veteran shortstop on the 10-day injured list before tonight’s game against the Nationals. The placement, which is retroactive to June 9, is due to lumbar spine inflammation. Ryan Kreidler is up from Triple-A Toledo to take the open active roster spot.

Báez told the Detroit beat that he was headed to Florida for additional testing (link via Cody Stavenhagen of the Athletic). The Tigers haven’t provided a timeline for his return, though he’s expected to be out beyond the minimal stint. Báez has battled back discomfort dating to Spring Training, which could be a contributing factor to the worst performance of his career.

The two-time All-Star has only hit one home run over 196 plate appearances. He’s hitting .183/.209/.247 across 53 games. Among hitters with 150+ trips to the plate, only Mickey Moniak has a lower on-base percentage. Tim Anderson and Moniak are the only such hitters who have made less of a power impact. Báez has rated as a slightly below-average defender over 451 2/3 innings at shortstop. The overall production is well below replacement level.

Báez now carries a .223/.264/.344 slash line in 333 games since signing a six-year, $140MM free agent contract with Detroit. Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris downplayed the chances of moving on from Báez entirely in an appearance on MLB Network late last month. That won’t need to be a consideration while he’s on the injured list, but the Tigers clearly need much better production out of the position. Detroit is last in all three triple slash stats from their shortstops on the year.

For now, that task will fall on Kreidler and Zach McKinstry. Manager A.J. Hinch indicated that duo will split the shortstop reps while Báez is on the shelf. The lefty-hitting McKinstry and righty-swinging Kreidler will form something of a platoon, although Hinch indicated Kreidler won’t be completely shielded from right-handed pitching. With the Nats starting lefty Mitchell Parker this evening, Kreidler is in the lineup for his first MLB work of the season.

The UCLA product appeared in 37 big league contests between 2022-23. Kreidler didn’t hit much in that limited look, turning in a .165/.220/.209 slash over 102 plate appearances. He owns a .242/.362/.448 mark with a lofty 27.1% strikeout rate in parts of four seasons with Toledo. McKinstry has hit .225/.296/.341 in 624 MLB plate appearances since the Tigers acquired him from the Cubs just before the start of last season. He’s a career .219/.284/.365 hitter versus right-handed pitching.

While the Tigers are patching things together on the infield, they seem to have dodged a bullet in the rotation. Jack Flaherty exited last week’s start against the Rangers after experiencing back tightness. He hasn’t pitched since then but seems on track to avoid the injured list. As noted by Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free-Press, Flaherty received an injection yesterday and is lined up to take the ball during this weekend’s series against the Astros. Signed to a one-year pillow contract over the winter, Flaherty is pitching at an All-Star level. He owns a 3.22 ERA while striking out more than a third of his opponents over his first 12 starts.

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