Cleveland — He hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since May 26, but if you talk to Francisco Liriano, you wouldn’t think he missed a start.
“I'm not concerned at all,” he said before Friday's game against the Indians at Progressive Field. “Everything feels back to normal, everything feels great. I've just got to go out tomorrow, execute pitches and take one hitter at a time, one inning at a time and not try to do too much.”
Liriano was on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. He took a week off from throwing, but went right back to his normal program. He made just one rehab start at Triple-A Toledo on Sunday.
“The last couple weeks I was just doing what I was doing before, trying to get in my five-day routine,” he said. “I haven't changed anything…I think I can go as far as they need me to go. It depends on how I'm doing out there tomorrow.
“I threw 84 pitches last time. Everything feels great and I just can't wait until tomorrow.”
With Liriano and Jordan Zimmermann both back from the disabled list, manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Chris Bosio are going to work six starters into the rotation between now and the All-Star break. That means that lefty Blaine Hardy will continue to make starts, though not every five days.
“I think that would work,” Liriano said. “It wouldn't bother me at all. I don't know about any other guys. Hardy's been doing a great job so it's hard to put him in the bullpen with the way he's throwing the ball right now.
“I think that's a great idea.”
Stumpf decision looming
Left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf is expected to make a second rehab appearance with the Mud Hens this weekend. But that doesn’t mean he will be quick-ticketed back to the active roster.
Even with the Tigers facing 20 games in 20 days.
“He’s still got to get people out,” Gardenhire said. “He wasn’t throwing the ball over the plate when he was here. We have to make a decision whether he’s ready to come back up and jump back into the middle of it here or let him keep pitching (at Toledo) for a while.
“First it’s about health and now it’s about how he’s throwing. We have a big decision to make on that.”
Lesson for Castellanos
Gardenhire spent about 15 minutes chatting in right field with Nick Castellanos during the Tigers’ early batting practice session Friday.
“Just talking about the way he goes after balls in the outfield,” Gardenhire said. “He wants to catch everything for the pitchers. Those balls where he runs right back to the wall, he’s not going to catch it, but he’s trying to instead of playing it off the wall.
“It’s just some decisions he’s going to have to make, knowing you can’t catch every ball. If they hit a rocket, let’s keep it to a double.”
Gardenhire said he’s noticed Castellanos chasing too many balls around the outfield. Outfield coach Dave Clark was part of the discussion, as well.
“Dave’s been doing all the work with Nick,” Gardenhire said. “Nick ends up chasing a lot of balls that he has no chance to catch, instead of just lining up and playing it off the wall. It’s just because he cares. He’s trying to catch every ball.”
No big deal
Tigers utility man Ronny Rodriguez spent eight seasons playing in the Indians’ minor-league system, including three at the Triple-A level. Friday night was the first game he was part of at Progressive Field.
And he was wearing a Tigers uniform. He never got as much as a September call-up with the Indians.
“Yeah, I spent a lot of time over there,” Rodriguez said. “But it’s baseball. I am here now. I have the same goals, just a different team. I still have a lot of friends over there, but I play for the Tigers. So I have to do 100 percent to help my team win.”
He said there were no other emotions tied to it.
“I am a professional player and I control what I can control,” he said. “I don’t make the decisions. I just play hard and try to help the team win. That’s always my goal, no matter what team I am on.”
Around the horn
The Tigers signed veteran catcher Josh Thole to a minor-league contract Friday. He will report to Double-A Erie.
Thole, who was the personal catcher for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, played eight seasons in the big leagues with the Mets and Blue Jays. He was working with the Blue Jays television network before signing with the Tigers.
…With catcher Grayson Greiner expected to remain with the Tigers the rest of the season, veteran Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kade Scivicque are sharing the catching duties at Triple-A Toledo.
For now, Thole will backup Jake Rogers, the Tigers’ top catching prospect, at Erie.
…Jose Iglesias went into the game Friday having hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games. He’s hitting .348 in that stretch.