Detroit — Nobody said the business of baseball was fair. And it certainly isn’t ‘fair’ that Mikie Mahtook was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo Friday to make room for third baseman Jeimer Candelario’s return off the disabled list.
Not fair because Mahtook is more experienced and, right now, a more talented option to be the team’s extra outfielder. But, the Tigers have committed to keeping Rule 5 draftee Victor Reyes on the roster all season — otherwise they’d have to expose him to the waiver wire and offer him back to the Diamondbacks.
Reyes has three hits in 31 at-bats and has been used almost exclusively as a pinch-runner. But, the Tigers project him to be a starting corner outfielder in the couple of years and are willing to stash him on the big-league roster for a year to secure him.
“We’ve got (Reyes) on the roster to keep him here,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We talked about it after the last road trip. We’ve got to do a better job of getting him in ballgames. He’s got to play and he’s got to get at-bats.
“I’ve talked to Lloyd (McClendon) and we’re going to find spots to play him. He’s going to play; he’s our extra outfielder.”
The Tigers could have sent veteran infielder Pete Kozma back to Toledo, but Gardenhire said he wanted to keep two extra infielders — Kozma and Niko Goodrum — as insurance against Candelario’s problematic wrist acting up and to spell both Jose Iglesias and Dixon Machado.
“We need our infielders,” he said. “Goody has been playing all over the place. And we’ve got Reyes. Mikie was the only place we could go because of the situation with our roster.”
This is the second Triple-A stint this season for Mahtook, who was the Tigers’ starting left fielder on Opening Day. He, too, has struggled offensively, hitting .188.
“Mikie doesn’t need to sit up here and watch Jonesy play,” Gardenhire said, referencing starting left fielder JaCoby Jones. “He needs to hit. He needs to get his swings and keep swinging. Because there will be a time, we know it’s going to happen, when he’ll be back up here and he’ll be playing.
“But right now we have to see if (center fielder Leonys) Martin can get back to himself and see if Jonesy can maintain. But Mikie needs to get at-bats. He doesn’t need to sit here and watch.”
Gardenhire said that was easier for him to say than it was for Mahtook to hear. Also, he acknowledged it was a hard message to deliver to Mahtook.
“Brutal,” he said. “No fun. Worst part of the job. I really like the young man. I like having him in the dugout and coming off the bench. But the other side of it is, this is better for him because he’s playing. He needs to be playing.
“It’s the only way he’s going to find his swing and keep it. Then, when we need it, and we will, he will have it.”
Cabrera getting closer
After taking early batting practice Friday, Miguel Cabrera came back into the clubhouse and put on his spikes.
Are you going out to run? he was asked.
“Yep,” he said.
Getting closer, huh?
A nod in the affirmative.
Cabrera, who has missed 25 games with a hamstring strain, did some light running along the warning track. No sprinting, no sudden bursts, no change of direction. Later, while the rest of the team took regular batting practice, he did some work at first base, moving laterally off the base to field ground balls.
“We’re not putting a timetable on him,” Gardenhire said. “He’s feeling better and he told me today he was ready to do the running thing. But he’s got to take ground balls, not flat-footed, but moving, and he’s got to get out early before everything starts and run the base paths and the whole package.
“He’s going to tell us when he’s ready to go.”
Candelario was adamant that he wouldn’t need more than two rehab starts at Toledo. And he didn’t.
He returned to the Tigers’ lineup Friday after missing 11 games with left wrist tendinitis.
“It’s not bothering me at all,” he said. “It’s not even on my mind. I wanted to come back when I was ready and I am good to go. Hopefully, I will stay healthy the whole season.”
Around the horn
The Tigers kicked off their longest home stand of the season Friday. They will have 12 games over the next 11 days. They will play 18 of their next 21 games at Comerica Park. They have won 11 of their last 16 home games.
…Still no dates set for pitchers Jordan Zimmermann (shoulder) and Alex Wilson (plantar fasciitis) to start rehab assignments. Both threw bullpens on Monday.