Goodrum ‘a little out there,’ but Tigers like his fire

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Pittsburgh — If it’s Thursday, it must be third base for Niko Goodrum.

Then again, on any day, in any game, Goodrum can find himself adjusting to a new position.

The Human Crescent Wrench was stationed at yet another outpost, his third starting spot inside of 24 hours, as the Tigers got ready to play the Pirates at 12:35 p.m. Thursday in their series finale.

Goodrum was the choice at third base after he had been manager Ron Gardenhire’s pick at second base in Wednesday’s opening game of a doubleheader, all before he shifted to first for the second game.

“He’s got enthusiasm, he’s game-on, and he helps us win,” said Gardenhire, whose team split Wednesday’s twin games with the Pirates.

He also, as the skipper acknowledges, can be “a little out there,” which is a polite way of saying Goodrum has his adventures at bat, in the field, and on the basepaths.

In the opener Wednesday, Goodrum struck out his first four times before getting a single in his fifth at-bat. He also missed second base on a double-play attempt, which led to three unearned runs against Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann.

In the second game, he got doubled off base on JaCoby Jones’ line-out to the second baseman. In the manner of a player who can cut both ways, Goodrum also blasted a double against the center-field fence.

“This is his first taste of the big leagues,” Gardenhire said. “And I’ve seen this reckless abandon. He’ll learn to control the situation a little better.

“Right now, he wants to make an imprint. He’s doing fine. He’s working his butt off. And he’ll play anywhere.

“Yes, he’s getting a little out here, but you’ve got to live with the good and the bad when he’s learning.”

Goodrum, 26, was in the Twins organization for eight seasons before he signed with the Tigers last November as a minor-league free agent. He is a Georgia native and a former second-round pick by the Twins.

The Tigers liked his ability to play anywhere in the infield, or in the outfield, as they looked for a man who could bring what Andrew Romine offered in previous years as a Tigers one-man-band bench option.

Goodrum hit enough in spring training, and with power, to win a job. He has one home run in the early games of the 2018 season, and just missed a second in Wednesday’s second game. He was batting .200 entering Thursday’s game.

He also had struck out 15 times in 40 at-bats, which, given his ability to hit a pitch over, or against, a fence is something the Tigers for now are accepting.

Goodrum was a Thursday stand-in for Jeimer Candelario, who has a tender left wrist.

Gardenhire said Candelario wanted to play, but the skipper and training staff preferred he rest.

Also getting a start Thursday was rookie outfielder Victor Reyes, who brought another left-handed bat against Pirates starter Ivan Nova.

The Tigers made a personnel swap ahead of Thursday’s game. They returned outfielder Mike Gerber to Triple A Toledo and called up right-handed reliever Johnny Barbato.