St. Petersburg, Fla. — The Tigers’ top two front-office generals, Dave Dombrowski and Al Avila, both were with the team this week as Detroit continued its chase for Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.
The Tigers were maintaining secrecy, but it is known they are heavily pursuing Castillo, 27, a right-handed hitter with speed and power, and with skills that could make him the team’s center-field replacement a month after Austin Jackson was traded to Seattle.
Their motivation for signing Castillo likely wasn’t tempered Thursday in a 1-0 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. The Tigers got only four hits in what became their seventh shutout defeat of 2014.
Castillo’s representatives, Roc Nation Sports, are being courted by several clubs, with the Tigers, Red Sox, and Giants confirmed as being the primary bidders, according to Foxsports.com writer Ken Rosenthal.
An industry executive said any club signing Castillo would want at least several weeks — “50 to 60 at-bats” — of sophisticated competition before Castillo would be ready to play in a big-league game.
Castillo defected last December from the Cuban National team. He has not played a professional baseball game since 2013.
It is not clear that the Tigers, or any club, would benefit during the postseason from a Castillo signing, given the Aug. 31 deadline for adding players to a potential playoff roster. Injuries can create openings, but there is yet no clear timetable or deadline being announced for Castillo’s signing.
The Tigers have been working a platoon system in center field, with right-handed hitting Rajai Davis getting most of the work there, assisted by left-handed batting Ezequiel Carrera.
Eugenio Suarez came close to having a happy day Thursday. He had a single and a double, which was one-half of the Tigers’ hits against three Rays pitchers.
But the Tigers never scored. And that meant the day’s lone run, which the Rays got in the first inning, was an unearned run that scored after Suarez made a throwing error, which was followed by Tampa Bay’s only hit against David Price: an RBI triple from Brandon Guyer.
“When I go to throw the ball, my knee was not in a good position,” said Suarez, who started at shortstop and whose throw following a ground ball from Ben Zobrist soared over the head of first baseman Victor Martinez.
“It was just a mistake.”
Suarez was back in the lineup following a two-game break designed, ironically, to help Suarez clear his mind and shake a slump.
Price’s near-masterpiece Thursday found its way into the record books, even if it was a loss nonetheless.
It was the first time, as near as records indicate, that a Tigers starter had lost a one-hit complete game. It was the first time a big-league pitcher had lost a complete game one-hitter since it happened to Anthony Reyes of the Cardinals on June 22, 2006. It was the first such game in the American League since Freddy Garcia, then throwing for the White Sox, lost to the Twins on Aug. 23, 2005.
Since he returned to the Rays from the disabled list in July of 2013, Price has seven complete games, the most by any pitcher other than Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. No other big-league pitcher has more than four complete games during that 13-month span.