Tigers call up reliever Jim Johnson, send down Melvin Mercedes

By Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Tigers manager Brad Ausmus announced after Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Mariners game that veteran reliever Jim Johnson has been recalled from Toledo and Melvin Mercedes, who pitched two scoreless innings in his major-league debut Thursday, was sent back.

The Tigers were prepared to call up the veteran Johnson on Thursday after he threw two scoreless innings in Toledo Wednesday night. But at Johnson’s request, they let him make one more appearance for the Mud Hens — thus Mercedes was promoted instead.

Johnson pitched Thursday and allowed a run and two hits in his one inning of work.

The A’s released Johnson on Aug. 1, and he signed with the Tigers on Aug. 5

The Tigers cleared a spot on the 40-man roster by designating reliever Kevin Whelan for assignment.

Lineup chatter

Ausmus had Ian Kinsler leading off against left-hander Felix Hernandez on Saturday, instead of Ezequiel Carrera, who was starting and playing centerfield in place of Rajai Davis.

“I don’t want to put too much of a magnifying glass on Carrera hitting leadoff right now,” Ausmus said. “I know Kins can handle it. He’s been around the game a long time and he’s led off many times. It’s not that Carrera couldn’t hit leadoff. It’s just at this point, let Kins do it.

“Plus it gives us right-left-right-left (hitters) at the top of the lineup.”

Ausmus also said Miguel Cabrera had no lingering effects from jamming his thumb making a tag on Austin Jackson in the first inning Thursday.

Ausmus said he never considered playing Victor Martinez at first and letting Cabrera be the designated hitter.

Teaching point

Both Ausmus and coach Omar Vizquel spoke to third baseman Nick Castellanos about his decision to field a bunt by Chris Taylor in the Mariners’ three-run second inning Friday.

Their message: The chances of the ball rolling foul were better than his chances of throwing Taylor out at first — let it roll.

“That’s just an inexperience thing,” Ausmus said. “If that same bunt play arose tonight, I think Nick would pull his hand back and let it roll foul. Now he has an understanding that,

‘I’m probably not going to get the guy at first anyway, might as well see if the ball goes foul.’

“Until this year Nick hasn’t really played that much third base. We knew there’d be some rookie mistakes; we actually expected more since it was basically a new position for him.”

Bodies needed

The Tigers will play a pair of double-headers in a span of eight days at the end of the month. They will play two games at Minnesota on Aug. 23 and two at Chicago on Aug. 30. Mercifully, Major League Baseball has a 26th man rule, which allows teams to expand their rosters to add a player for these makeup double-headers.

“It’s a common-sense rule,” Ausmus said. “I think bullpens can get decimated by double-headers, especially if a team doesn’t have an off day.”

The Tigers have an off day after the Minnesota series but not the Chicago series.


Ausmus said there have been no organizational discussion about potential September callups.

Mariners at Tigers

First pitch:

1:10 p.m., Sunday


FSD, TBS/97.1 and 1270

Scouting report

Young, Mariners:

The 35-year-old right-hander has been a pleasant surprise for the M’s, posting an 11-6 record. Over his last 15 starts he’s 8-4 with a 3.01 ERA. In three previous starts against the Tigers, he’s 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA. He beat the Tigers in Seattle on May 31, allowing two runs and three hits in six innings.

Ray, Tigers:

Even though he allowed six hits and four runs in five innings in his start at Pittsburgh last week, the club was encouraged. He struck out five and showed much-improved command of both his fastball and a slider he just recently added to his arsenal.