Detroit — Dixon Machado was attempting to do something that very few players can do — make a major swing change in the middle of a season.
It went predictably bad. After a good start to the season, his average plummeted to .206. He went from being the everyday second baseman, to platooning at second, to not playing at all to, finally on Wednesday, being designated for assignment.
Manager Ron Gardenhire explained the decision Thursday.
“We weren’t really using Machado very much,” he said. “He was trying to work on his swing and all those things, and Goody (Niko Goodrum) was playing so good, we had to keep him in the lineup some way or another and second base was the way to do that most of the time.”
Goodrum, who started the season as a super utility player, has played exceptionally well, hitting .242, slugging .444 with a .762 OPS.
“Goody basically took the job and ran with it,” Gardenhire said. “He’s hitting from both sides and doing well.”
The Tigers are hoping Machado first clears waivers and then agrees to a minor-league deal to stay in the organization. Machado, who was DFA’d in 2013, would be a free agent if he clears.
“Machado needs to play, he doesn’t need to sit,” Gardenhire said. “If he’s going to find his swing, he’s got to play and this is a hard level to do it at. His struggles forced us to do something like this.”
For the last two winters, Machado had attempted to increase the launch angle of his swing. After hitting eight doubles in April, teams adjusted, deploying overshifted defenses and the extra base hits turned into fly outs.
Machado worked valiantly to level out his swing.
"Hitting the ball in the air doesn't help him here," Gardenhire said. "Until he can cover the ball and use the whole field, he's going to have a hard time playing in the middle of the infield."
Right-hander Victor Alcantara is the third pitcher this season to work his way back to the big leagues after being DFA’d by the Tigers, joining Blaine Hardy and Drew VerHagen.
“We needed to get an arm up here with some velocity,” Gardenhire said.
Alcantara, whose fastball registers between 95-97 mph, was acquired from the Angels for Cameron Maybin and he made a forgettable debut with the Tigers last season (seven runs and 12 hits in 7.1 innings).
But he’s been a different pitcher at the Triple-A level this year. He’s 4-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 27 games at Toledo. He’s struck out 44 and walked six in 47 innings.
“My focus has been on making quality pitches,” Alcantara said through Tigers translator Rafael Martinez. “I’ve just concentrated on putting the ball where the catcher asks for the ball and not trying to do too much. “
He’s also vastly improved his change-up — he had no real off-speed pitch last year.
“I am just happy about the second chance,” he said. “It was disappointing to be let go. But I worked hard and I got a chance to come back. I hope to do my best to help the team.”
Warwick Saupold was sent back to Toledo.
Around the horn
Gardenhire said he hopes he can give struggling third baseman Jeimer Candelario more days off now that utility man Ronny Rodriguez is back up from Toledo. Candelario is hitting .173 since June 1.
“It’s been hard to give him days off with all that’s been going on here,” Gardenhire said. “With Ronny here now, I can do a better job of that.”
Candelario was out of the lineup Thursday.
...VerHagen (broken nose) will make at least another rehab appearance in Toledo.
…Closer Shane Greene was scheduled to have more tests done on his injured shoulder Thursday.
…According to Baseball Reference, the Tigers have had the third largest attendance drop in the Major Leagues this season. Attendance per game is down 7,319 at Comerica Park.