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Tigers give Upton a mental health break

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Justin Upton

Detroit – Two weeks ago, with their All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen mired in the worst slump of his career, the Pirates decided to remove him from the lineup – not for a game but for an entire series – to allow him to clear his head.

The Tigers did the same last season, benching with third baseman Nick Castellanos for three games.

It could be Justin Upton’s turn to get a mental health break. He has one hit in his last 30 at-bats. Going back 13 games, he’s 5-for-49 with 14 strikeouts and five double-play balls.

Upton was not in the starting lineup Wednesday. Manager Brad Ausmus said he has considered giving him multiple days, but did not commit to it.

“With the injuries we’ve had, it’s been tough to get him out of the lineup,” Ausmus said. “But sometimes you have to do what’s best for him and hope it will be for the best long-term for both him and the club.”

Center fielder Cameron Maybin is still on the disabled list, but the Tigers do have four healthy outfielders besides Upton. Steven Moya was called up from Toledo on Tuesday. So, if Ausmus wanted to give Upton multiple days off, he has enough bodies to cover it.

Upton’s hitting issues aren’t all mental, though. It has appeared that his swing has gotten long and he’s had trouble catching up to fastballs. Ausmus didn’t agree with that assessment.

“His bat’s not slow,” he said. “I think he’s just out of sync mechanically. His timing is off. Having your timing off would make you look like you are in between pitches.”

One reliever short

It was presumed that Moya would be returned to Toledo when newly acquired Erick Aybar was put on the 25-man roster Wednesday. That was not the case.

The Tigers instead returned left-handed pitcher Blaine Hardy to Toledo – leaving the bullpen with seven arms. Ausmus indicated that may be a temporary condition.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Ausmus said. “I still think we may end up needing the extra pitcher long-term.”

More and more American League teams are carrying 13 pitchers (eight relievers) and one fewer position player. The Tigers have had eight relievers most of the season.

Nick update

Third baseman Nick Castellanos, on the DL with a fractured left hand, is expected to have a second MRI to gauge how fast it’s healing Monday prior to the Tigers flying to Minneapolis.

“I want to play, but I can’t,” Castellanos said. “I’m just trying to do everything I can – throw, stay in shape and try to be ready whenever I come back.”

He threw out to more than 120 feet Wednesday. Like a quarterback warming up before a game, he had somebody (bullpen catcher Sam Palace) catching the ball for him.

Around the horn

…Maybin (thumb) is still not doing any hitting. “He’s not ready to swing,” Ausmus said. “It’s not a setback. In fact, he said he felt better today. It’s just, day to day.”

…Miguel Cabrera, who was held out of the game Tuesday because of a biceps strain, was back in the lineup Wednesday.

…Former Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello will make his first start at Comerica Park since being traded to Boston on Friday night. Porcello, 16-3 with a 3.30 ERA with the Red Sox, beat the Tigers at Fenway Park in 2015. He will battle Tigers rookie Michael Fulmer on Friday.

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