Detroit – Niko Goodrum should consider keeping a diary.
Each night, he could begin his notations by listing the position he played in today’s game, which in his case is enough to ensure something different for an entire week’s entries, at least.
Saturday, it was second base as the Tigers dressed for a 4:10 p.m. game against the White Sox at Comerica Park. Goodrum, of course, has started games at all four infield spots for the Tigers – he has outfield starts, as well – and Saturday was replacing Dixon Machado, who is having deep frustrations as Machado works through swing-changes proposed by the Tigers.
Goodrum’s story is a spicy tale of reincarnation after he escaped a career-long entombment in the Twins farm system and last autumn signed with the Tigers as a minor-league free agent.
Spicy, in fact, is how Goodrum likes his meals, at least when he orders from his favorite downtown Detroit haunt, Go! Sy Thai, on Cass Avenue, near the apartment in which he lives away from the ballpark and from road trips.
With his takeout order in tow, he retires to his loft for an evening of relaxation spent watching the NBA playoffs. On a night when playoffs aren’t airing, he’ll watch movies or listen to music, all the while savoring a man’s first two months in the big leagues.
Goodrum, 26, is batting .235 as a Tigers part-timer and fill-in handyman for manager Ron Gardenhire. It fulfills thoughts Goodrum had last autumn when he and his agent were listening to overtures from clubs that included, other than the keenly interested Tigers, the Orioles and Blue Jays.
“They didn’t have Romine,” Goodrum said, speaking of Andrew Romine, the former Tigers one-man band who had been lost on waivers to the Mariners. “I saw an opening there. It just felt right to me.”
Teams had natural interest in a 6-foot-3, 198-pound, switch-hitter who had been good enough to lure a second-round draft chip from the Twins. He has had his moments, but for the most part, Goodrum has been a deft sub who has five homers in only 102 at-bats.
He, of course, can play anywhere but catcher and pitcher – don’t exclude any possibilities in 2018 – but, if pressed, will tell you he probably feels most at home playing shortstop.
“It’s all I played as a kid in high school,” said Goodrum, who grew up in Fayetteville, about a half-hour south of Atlanta.
His flexibility was appreciated Saturday as Gardenhire and the Tigers work, as much psychologically as mechanically, on Machado and his current miseries.
Tigers hitting coaches Lloyd McClendon and Phil Clark are trying to retool a swing that has been too long, too airborne, and too pull-prone.
It has not been going smoothly. Gardenhire noticed during Friday’s batting practice that Machado was popping-up pitches and growing more upset, if not despondent.
“I told him, this is his career, not my career,” Gardenhire said of his counseling session, during which he wanted Machado to know he needed to be comfortable with a transition the Tigers believe, ultimately, could be a boost.
“We talked about it, swing changes that might help get the ball out of the air and get more ground balls and line-drives,” Gardenhire said. “This is a big park.”
The Tigers had other adjustments in place Saturday as Francisco Liriano warmed for a start against Chicago’s Hector Santiago.
Victor Reyes was getting a start in left field as JaCoby Jones moved to center, in part to give Leonys Martin’s still-healing hamstring a break.
It was also designed to make Reyes feel as if he was something other than a human dugout bench.
“He had no at-bats on that last road trip,” Gardenhire said, “and that’s my bad.”
Reyes, of course, is a Rule 5 pick who last season was playing Single A ball for the Diamondbacks. The Tigers grabbed him as the first pick in December’s Rule 5 draft and must keep him on the active 25-man roster for the duration of this season – or return him to Arizona.
Gardenhire also announced Saturday that starter Jordan Zimmermann, who has been out with a right-shoulder impingement, will make his first rehab start Sunday at Toledo in a 6:05 p.m. game against Norfolk.