Time is short for Castellanos to return

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Time is running out on third baseman Nick Castellanos, at least in terms of being able to help the Tigers this month.

Manager Brad Ausmus conceded as much before Wednesday’s game.

Asked if it was getting closer to the point where Castellanos wouldn’t be able to make it back before the end of the season, Ausmus said, “We’re getting closer, for sure. But there is no reason to stop progressing him until we run out of time.”

Castellanos, who fractured the fifth metacarpal on his left hand on Aug. 6, tested his hand against live pitching for the first time Wednesday. He took one at-bat in Jordan Zimmermann’s simulated game and didn’t show much conviction on any of his five swings.

“I wish I could’ve gone in there and hit a bunch of balls over the fence,” he said. “But it didn’t work out that way. It’s still a process.”

He fouled a couple pitches off with one-handed swings before bouncing weakly to second base. He pulled himself out of the sim game at that point.

“Yeah, I pulled myself out,” he said. “The velocity and intensity, just with the pitches moving around like that, I’m not there yet. I’m not ready to manipulate my swing and try to hit those kinds of pitches yet.”

Ausmus didn’t have high expectations for Castellanos’ first live at-bats.

“It was not a surprise, to be honest,” he said. “I didn’t think he’d be able to swing. It was still bothering him a little bit in soft toss and regular batting practice. So it didn’t shock me that he felt it at that velocity.”

Castellanos said he continues to feel the strength gradually coming back in the hand and was not overly disappointed about having to pull out Wednesday.

“It’s not a setback,” he said. “We went there and now we know where we’re at right now.”

Still, it was a reality check for him. He was hoping he could return to the lineup next week. That’s not likely.

“Usually, after six weeks means going to start a rehab assignment,” he said. “Six weeks for me is Saturday. When J.D. (Martinez) got hurt, they gave me the same timetable that he (got). After six weeks for J.D., J.D. went and had nine days of rehab.

“I don’t have that luxury, so we’re going to try to do everything in-house. How long that takes, it’s all going to depend on how my hand feels. I don’t really have a crystal ball.”

The next step, if the pain allows, is to take batting practice on the field the next couple of days. If that goes well, he hopes another sim game will be scheduled so he can take a second test against live pitching.

But even he hears the ticking of the clock.

Making lemonade

Having Zimmermann — his No. 2 starter, whom the organization signed to a five-year, $110 million contract in the offseason — serve three stints on the disabled list was certainly not in Ausmus’ plans in spring training.

But, as he pointed out before the game, nor were Michael Fulmer, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris.

“To be honest with you, it’s probably more surprising — to me, the most surprising part of the season is that, for a good chunk of the year, we’ve had three rookies in the rotation, and with 18 games left, we’re fighting for a playoff spot,” he said. “That is not a recipe, generally, for fighting for a playoff spot, having three rookies in the rotation. Fulmer’s pitched outstanding, and Boyd and Norris have pitched really well.

“Would we rather have Zimmermann for 34-35 starts? Absolutely. But these guys have still done a nice job. To me, that’s the crux of it, why we’re in the position we’re in, because those guys have pitched as well as they have.”

Around the horn

Justin Verlander is the Tigers nominee for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, which is given to a player whose “on-field performance and contributions to his community most inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” Fans can vote to make Verlander one of six finalists at MLBPlayers.com. Voting takes place through Sept. 18.

… The Tigers-Indians game Sept. 29 has been picked up by ESPN. It will still be shown locally on FSD and start at 1:10 p.m.

Twins at Tigers

First pitch: 1:10 today Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Scouting report

LHP Hector Santiago (11-8, 4.75), Twins: He’s pitched well his last three starts, allowing four runs in 191/3 innings with an opponents’ average of 1.86. But he’s had control issues, walking 11. The Tigers scored six off him in 62/3 innings this season.

RHP Mike Pelfrey (4-9, 4.76), Tigers: He’s making his first big-league start since July 31. He’s been off the disabled list 10 days, but hasn’t pitched. He is only stretched out to 60 pitches, so he will be on a limited pitch count.

Twitter.com: @cmccosky