Arlington, Texas – Mikie Mahtook’s hitting rehab stint has already lasted longer than he hoped, and there is no sign that it’s about to end any time soon.
And the kicker is, Mahtook is starting to bang the baseball again. In his last eight games with Triple-A Toledo, he hit .344 (11-for-32) with a 1.135 OPS. He’s produced two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in that stretch.
“He’s swinging good and that was kind of the goal,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “But we want to see him consistent and do it for a little while – not just for a few games. But he’s getting better. That’s what our reports say. His swing path is better and he’s barreling the ball.”
Which, for now, means nothing in terms of the Tigers’ outfield construction. JaCoby Jones is going to get a lot of rope as the starting left fielder. Leonys Martin in center and Nick Castellanos in right are off to fast starts and have solidified their spots.
And Rule 5 draftee Victor Reyes, who has had his struggles at the plate and in the field, isn’t going anywhere.
“The plan is for him to stay here (all season),” said Gardenhire. “Right now, that’s what we’re looking at.”
The Tigers would have to expose Reyes to waivers and offer him back to Arizona if they take him off their 25-man roster. The commitment has been made organizationally to keep Reyes.
So, that leaves Mahtook stuck – for now.
“How many outfielders can you have and expect to get them all playing time?” Gardenhire said. “With Jonesy taking off and play as well as he has, and Martin’s playing and Casty (Castellanos). Do you want to bring (Mahtook) up here, the way he’s been swinging, and then sit him on the bench?
“He’s better suited getting swings down there right now until something happens. And it could be any minute.”
Mahtook began the season as the starting left fielder. But in the first nine game – albeit in brutal cold conditions – he went 4-for-31 with 10 strikeouts. The Tigers, though, aren’t giving up on him. They know he’s still the same player who hit .283 with a .356 on-base percentage and slugged .481 in the second half last season.
“I loved Mikie in spring training,” Gardenhire said. “I enjoy his enthusiasm and I want to get him up here. But it’s got to be the right moment. We’re not going to get him up here to sit, or to take time away from a guy who is swinging it good like Jonesy has been.
“That wouldn’t make sense. It’s got to be the right thing for him, and for our ball club.”