Detroit — Right now, it’s more about riding a hot hitter. Slowly but surely, though, Mikie Mahtook, is pushing manager Brad Ausmus to give him that center-field spot on a daily basis.
“He’s definitely giving us better at-bats and he’s played well in center field,” Ausmus said before Tuesday's game. “He might get a few more looks against right-handed pitching.”
Mahtook, who delivered the winning hit Sunday against the Padres against their right-handed closer Brendan Mauer, started and batted second Tuesday against Royals left-hander Matt Strahm.
“Whatever we think helps us win ball games,” Ausmus said. “And if he’s swinging the bat well and playing solid defense, that’s helpful.”
In 16 games since May 31, Mahtook is hitting .357 with a .595 slugging percentage and a .952 OPS. Though he’s gotten most of his work when there is a lefty on the mound, his splits are similar — .250 vs. right-handers and .255 vs. lefties.
“I just go out whenever my number is called and try to put together good at-bats and do anything I can to help us win,” Mahtook said. “Whether that means coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning or starting.
“Wherever my at-bats come, I just want to make an impact.”
The Tigers acquired Mahtook in the offseason with the idea that he could possibly win the starting center-field spot. It’s taken a couple of months, but he seems to be moving in that direction.
“Playing every day, that would be awesome,” he said. “That’s my goal. That’s what I want to do. But I am just trying to focus on one at-bat at a time. I hope they keep riding me. I am feeling good.
“I’m going to keep grinding it out and competing.”
Earning trust II
Left-hander Daniel Stumpf is starting to gain the manager’s trust, as well. Ausmus summoned him in the seventh inning of a tie game Sunday.
“He’s pitched well the last few times in higher leverage situations against left-handed hitters and he got some right-handers out in the process,” Ausmus said. “I will probably be a little more comfortable using him in those situations going forward.”
Stumpf has allowed just one run — a home run by Seattle’s left-handed hitting Ben Gamel — in is last five outings (4⅓ innings). In his last eighth, over 6⅓ innings, he’s allowed two runs while limiting opponents to a .200 batting average.
“I think every time I can get out there and get more experience out there, it definitely makes me more comfortable,” he said. “I’ve just been trusting my stuff more.”
That was never more evident than on Sunday when he struck out lefty Cory Spangenberg with a slider on a 3-2 count.
“I think they always trusted me, but in high-leverage situations, it’s going to take time,” he said. “That’s expected. There are guys ahead of me who have earned that spot and that trust. It takes time for that to come.”
Around the horn
The Tigers sent outfielder Jim Adduci (oblique) to Toledo Tuesday to being a rehab assignment. He was the Mud Hens designated hitter on Tuesday.
... Outfielder Steven Moya was sent to Double-A Erie. Moya was hitting .166 with 61 strikeouts in 162 plate appearances. “He’s struggling right now and they felt like removing him from that environment he’s in might help him reset,” Ausmus said.
… Outfielder Alex Presley (concussion) is still on the seven-day DL and still not ready to resume full baseball activity. He is expected to take a full concussion test on Thursday.
… Since the Tigers took two of three from the Royals at the end of May, the teams have gone in different directions. The Royals are 15-7 in June; the Tigers 8-14.
Royals at Tigers
First pitch: 7:10 tonight, Comerica Park, Detroit
RHP Ian Kennedy (1-6, 4.95), Royals: He’s gone six full innings just twice in his last nine starts (6.75 ERA, 12 home runs allowed in 41.1 innings in that stretch). The Tigers beat him on May 31. Victor Martinez homered, and Kennedy walked three in a four-run third inning.
LHP Daniel Norris (4-5, 4.66), Tigers: Norris allowed three runs in five innings in K.C. on May 29, an outing that would have looked a lot better had it not been for Whit Merrifield. He homered and tripled. In his four June starts, Norris has yielded 25 hits, 13 earned runs, 10 walks, with 25 strikeouts in 23 innings.