Arlington, Texas — Two players, at very different stages of their careers, were summoned by the Tigers from Triple-A Toledo Monday night.
Pete Kozma, 30, a former first-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals who has spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues, had his contract purchased to take the roster spot of starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list.
Zac Reininger, 25, a Tommy John surgery veteran who flew up the organization chain last season — from High-A, to Double-A, to Triple-A — only to endure 10 forgettable outings with the Tigers, was called up to replace injured Alex Wilson in the Tigers bullpen.
“I’m glad Kozmo is here,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, who has been clamoring for a fourth bench player most of the season. “He can really pick it and we need to catch the ball.”
Kozma is an elite defender, particularly at shortstop. But he will also play at third and second base. And even though he’s kicked around at the bottom of rosters the last few years, even spending the entire 2016 season in Triple-A, he’s produced some iconic playoff moments.
Google his series-clinching single in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. Or his brilliant defensive play against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the 2013 NLDS. Or, his controversial misplay in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, which helped usher in the video review process.
“I don’t look at that or dwell on it,” he said. “It’s just good to be here.”
He was playing for the Rangers at this time last season and he even hit a home run at Comerica Park last May 21.
“I do remember that for sure,” he said. “It was one of the ones I hit a homer, so you always remember that.”
Get back to right
Gardenhire welcomed Reininger back in typical fashion — with a zinger.
“Reinie got here, with his hair,” Gardenhire said. “All good. I am proud of a guy who has that much hair.”
The well-coiffed Reininger, who throws a mid- to upper-90s fastball, is more concerned about the state of his slider than his hair. He was asked what had been working well for him at Toledo.
“Not a whole lot, honestly,” he said. “I managed to get a few outs and stuff but I’ve got a lot of work to do. My slider has been missing up.”
He already knows what happens when he leaves his slider up on big-league hitters. He gave up eight runs and 16 hits in 9 2/3 innings with the Tigers last year. He had problems early in spring training, as well, and pitching coach Chris Bosio seemed to get him back on track.
Reininger is hoping Bosio can have the same effect on him.
“He did some work with me when I was struggling and we made some adjustments,” Reininger said. “He helped me fix a few things and made it a lot sharper. So, coming back up here, hopefully it will help it again.”
Reininger has a tendency to drop his arm angle and his hand gets on the side of the ball — not conducive to a biting slider. Bosio worked with him to stay on top of the ball when he throws the slider.
Coming home will help, too. Reininger grew up in the Dallas area and expected a large contingent of family and friends at the games Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I was telling some people, if I could go up to the big leagues for just one series, this would be the one I’d choose,” he said.
It’s been a rough road trip for second baseman Dixon Machado. He entered play Tuesday 4-for-20 on the trip and he’s had some uncharacteristic defensive struggles, as well.
Gardenhire was asked before the game if he considers sitting players down when they are pressing.
“You look at the moment and the right moments to do that,” he said. “I’d rather sit him after he had a good day than after a bad day. Just for the mental side of it. And I don’t think he necessarily had a bad day (Monday). A ball got by him and he was frustrated.
“But I don’t like to turn that into, ‘I’m going to play somebody else today.’ I’ve never liked to do that and I didn’t like it when I was playing.
Today wasn’t the day to do that.”
However, with a day game Wednesday, Machado will likely get a day off.
“He should go right back out there tonight,” Gardenhire said. “He’s played his butt off every day and he’s a good baseball player learning a new position. We have to stay with him.”
The Rangers activated slugger Adrian Beltre (hamstring) off the DL before the game.
Tigers at Rangers
First pitch: 2:05 p.m., today
TV/radio: FSD, 97.1
RHP Bartolo Colon (1-1, 3.29), Rangers: He continues to amaze. He will turn 45 soon and he’s still getting it done. He throws his two-seam sinker, at 88 mph, 70 percent of the time, so hitters know it’s coming. And yet, they are hitting only .219 off the pitch. Severe and late tailing action.
LHP Francisco Liriano (3-1, 2.97), Tigers: He’s yielded three runs or less in all six of his starts this season and he’s coming off a gem — one run, three hits over seven innings in Kansas City. Left-handed hitters are 3-for-34 against him this season. His efficiency has been outstanding, as evidenced by his career-low 1.07 WHIP.