Tigers’ Candelario gives defense plenty of work

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — No one appears to be overly concerned, including Jeimer Candelario, who doesn’t take lightly a big-leaguer’s job responsibilities.

But there have been four errors since he began residing at third base as the Tigers’ new man there.

The miscues have been easier to absorb when a 23-year-old rookie has been hitting so lustily: .354, including a pair of home runs, as he and the Tigers began their final home series of 2017 with a Thursday evening game against the Twins at Comerica Park.

“His hands and feet are really good,” said Brad Ausmus, the Tigers manager who thought Thursday a bit of perspective might ease any jitters about Candelario’s glove. “Most have been throwing errors. And a lot of times, young players get better there as they get older.”

Candelario’s reputation was solid on all ends when the Tigers got him in July’s trade with the Cubs that sent Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to Chicago. He was a switch-hitter who was expected to hit for reasonable average and power. And, scouts said, he played more than adequately at one of the diamond’s toughest defensive positions.

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But his past numbers are hardly immaculate.

During eight minor-league seasons and 697 games, Candelario made 107 errors. That equates to 20-plus bobbles during a 162-game season. By contrast, among third basemen with 100-plus games in 2017, the most errors by any third baseman has been 18, shared by Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Nicholas Castellanos, who is now playing right field for the Tigers after the Tigers decided his defense would be more acceptable in right.

“I think what we’ve seen here is that his skills look good and his hands are real good,” Ausmus said of Candelario.

“He’s a diligent worker. There are times he exhausts me (hitting ground balls). He’s working his tail off.”

Candelario agrees that’s the case, with one qualifier. Rain and wet fields of late have cut into his regimen.

“I pride myself on getting into my routine,” Candelario said. “With the rain, there weren’t as many opportunities outside for four days.”

Candelario has been working with the Tigers’ defensive tandem of Omar Vizquel, the first-base coach and primary infield guru, as well as defensive coordinator Matt Martin.

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“All the time I’m trying to get better,” Candelario said. “Every day.”

His throwing errors, he said, were the product of the ball “moving a little bit” on his relays to first and that any adjustments there would be manageable, and, he hoped, evident during the Tigers’ final 10 games.

That would be the Tigers’ view, as well.

Candelario’s hitting has been so robust since he dropped anchor at third the Tigers aren’t fretting about numbers they consider to be somewhat freaky.

They say the rookie’s defense should get steadily better. And, for that matter, so should his bat, which is why no one in the Tigers front office, or in Ausmus’ quarters, is displeased in the least by Candelario’s early work with Detroit.