Boston – At some point in 2016, the Tigers expect something close to a predictable outfield lineup to be in place.
But it isn’t happening this week in Boston.
Cameron Maybin missed another game Tuesday after he jostled a right posterior rib Sunday in Chicago. The injury isn’t serious, Tigers trainer Kevin Rand confirmed, but that wasn’t helping Tigers manager Brad Ausmus as he crafted Tuesday’s lineup card against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Tyler Collins got the start in center field and had a single, walk, and two RBIs. Mike Aviles, who continues as part of Ausmus’ patching crew while the Tigers wait for J.D. Martinez to return from his fractured elbow, started in right and was 2-for-5.
“We’ll give him another day,” Ausmus said of Maybin, although the Tigers skipper conceded Maybin might easily miss Wednesday’s series finale, as well. “We’ll play that (Wednesday’s availability) by ear.”
The Tigers began the season with Maybin on the disabled list and Anthony Gose as the team’s everyday center fielder. Gose hit his way out of the lineup and into the Tigers farm system as Maybin returned. A few weeks later, Martinez was lost to his elbow fracture.
Now, with Maybin on the pine for at least a couple of days, Ausmus has continued to scramble, using back-ups to fill two of the three outfield posts.
Not exactly the way 2016’s roster was foreseen.
J.D. Martinez began his rehabilitation tour Tuesday with Triple A Toledo and was 1-for-5, slashing a single, in his first game since he fractured his right elbow at Kansas City in June.
“We’ll see how he feels,” Ausmus said Tuesday, speaking of the remaining week’s plans as the Mud Hens get a two-day schedule break before playing Friday. “There’s a chance he can play the outfield Friday, or DH.”
Ausmus said Martinez “looks fine swinging” but that some discomfort remains when he extends his right arm.
It’s a natural response, Ausmus says, to an injury that has shelved Martinez since June 17.
All of the Tigers’ front-office principals are in Boston this week as the team plots strategies for the remainder of 2016.
The inter-league trade deadline is 4 p.m. Monday and the Tigers are continuing to keep an open mind, although the official stance is Detroit is in the 2016 playoff hunt for keeps.
Al Avila, the team’s general manager, is in Boston, along with assistant GMs David Chadd and John Westhoff, vice president of player personnel Scott Bream, analytics staffers Jay Sartori and Sam Menzin, as well as special assistants Jim Leyland and Alan Trammell, among others.
The Tigers review 2016 organizational matters and mull trade discussions that Avila likely has at least been obliged to entertain as phone lines warm ahead of Monday’s deadline.
But there has been no indication big-picture plans have changed. The Tigers, who were in second place Tuesday in the American League Central, 5½ games behind the front-running Indians, are, at least publicly, shooting for a playoff ticket.
Games this week — and phone calls that perhaps await Avila’s judgment — will affect any final thoughts.
Home, of sorts
Ausmus was back at the ballpark Tuesday where he first saw a big-league game, in 1976.
He was all of 7 when he joined his family for a day at Fenway Park, in a game against the Brewers, who then had on their roster a man about to call it a career: Hank Aaron.
Like most baseball fans and players, and those who have made baseball their career, Ausmus is a ballpark aficionado. It was one of the rewards, he says, of playing for the Tigers when the team was still housed at Tiger Stadium.
“It was always neat,” Ausmus said, “for me to play where Ty Cobb had played.”
Tigers at Red Sox
First pitch: 1:35 p.m., Wednesday, Fenway Park, Boston
RHP Michael Fulmer, Tigers (9-2, 2.41): Had a bumpy time, by Fulmer standards anyway, in his last start but remains one of the big pitching stories of 2016. Fulmer will be viewed carefully today. Can’t labor as he did in his last appearance.
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (2-4, 6.70): Better pitcher than his numbers, in part because of a nine-run game against the Rays last month. Has a power arm and four pitches, with a fastball that can hit the mid-90s.