Gardenhire on September call-ups: Less is probably more

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Christin Stewart

Detroit — It wasn’t really fair to ask the manager about September call-ups. The general manager and the baseball operations staff are the ones who will make the ultimate decision on that.

But, as usual, manager Ron Gardenhire fielded the question deftly and his perspective on the topic was enlightening.

We’re a month away from expanded rosters. General manager Al Avila and his staff have already had preliminary discussions on the relevant questions of who and how many players to call-up.

Gardenhire will provide his input, but expanded rosters, for a manager, can be more of a headache than anything else. Less is often more.

More: Tigers, Zimmermann roughed up by division-leading Indians

“You like expanded rosters if you have serviceable people,” he said. “Just to bring guys up here, I don’t know about that. Just to have them sitting around? If they haven’t deserved it or earned, then a lot of times you shouldn’t bring them up here.

“It’s an earned thing.”

Gardenhire doesn’t think it should be simply a reward for a good minor-league season. And adding extra position players is typically more problematic than pitchers — he will welcome all the additional arms the organization wants to give him.

“Some guys we want to see, and some guys aren’t ready for this,” he said. “Why bring them up here if they’re not ready for it? We want to make sure we do the right thing for them as players and what’s right for the ballclub.”

The last two months of the season are critical for some of the young Tigers players like Niko Goodrum, JaCoby Jones and Jeimer Candelario as the Tigers try to assess where they might fit going into next season.

Letting them play out the year may be deemed more valuable than getting somebody like Christin Stewart or Dawel Lugo 20-30 at-bats in September.

Niko Goodrum

“I don’t want to take at-bats away from some of these guys,” Gardenhire said. “We are trying to get these guys experience right now.”

Goodrum is an interesting case. Between now and the offseason, the Tigers will have to assess whether he’s best suited as an everyday second baseman or if his best value is as a multi-positional utility player.

“You have to see how everything sets up for next year,” Gardenhire said. “We just want him to keep playing. We’ve got a guy who has grown as a player and a person here. He feels comfortable here, feels comfortable finally being in the big leagues.

“And we’re all comfortable with him, whether it’s in a starting role or however the team is setting up next year.”

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All Gardenhire knows for sure is the team will probably be younger next year than it is this year, and if he had his druthers, he wouldn’t take away Goodrum’s versatility.

“How he fits as a utility guy or if we like him as an everyday player, there are so many things that will determine that,” Gardenhire said. “I like what Niko has done. I am pretty comfortable with him at second base, though he still has a lot of stuff to work on.

“But the big thing with Niko, he can play everywhere and that’s really important. I don’t want to take that away from him.”

Liriano showcase?

Interesting that the Tigers used Francisco Liriano out of the bullpen for two innings on Sunday.

He had been scratched from his scheduled start Saturday because of an allergic reaction. Liriano pitched two scoreless innings that looked very much like a showcase of sorts for the assembled scouts with Tuesday's trade deadline looming.

Contending teams may be scouting him as a bullpen piece. 

"We wanted him to go three innings, but he was gassed a little bit," Gardenhire said. "He's still dealing with the rash. After the second inning we checked with him and he was breathing heavy. We just said, let's get him off the field."

It wasn’t a clean two innings, by any means. Liriano pitched around a Rajai Davis triple in the fourth inning and then a walk and a single in the fifth. The inning ended when right fielder Nick Castellanos threw out Edwin Encarnacion at the plate, trying to score from second on a single.

Jones update

JaCoby Jones was lifted from the game in the sixth inning Saturday night with back tightness and he wasn’t in the lineup again Sunday.

“Just precautionary,” Jones said. “It’s fine. Just with the day off (Monday), it gives me two days to rest it. But it’s all good.”

Jones was available to play if needed on Sunday.

Around the horn

Castellanos threw out his seventh runner of the season and his first at home. He'd thrown out three at second and three at third base. Encarnacion was out by several steps.

"(Encarnacion) runs similar to me," Gardenhire joked. "He's been playing a long time. He realized he was going to be out."

... If James McCann never faces Indians starter Corey Kluber again, it will be too soon.

He struck out twice in three at-bats Sunday and is 0-for-15 with seven punch outs in his career against him.