Roster space is sticking point in Tigers' September call-up decisions

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Christin Stewart

Detroit – General manager Al Avila sat in manager Ron Gardenhire’s office for a long time Sunday morning. The topic du jour – September call-ups.

“We talked about a lot of things,” Gardenhire said. “We talked about which guys we might call up, but we haven’t put together a list of names yet or anything like that. Just casual conversation. It’s about guys who deserve it, but it’s also about roster space.

“That’s the biggest (issue) we have right now. Roster space is kind of dicey.”

There are no limitations on the number of players teams can add to their big-league rosters on Sept. 1. But those players must come from the team’s 40-man roster.

More: Tigers send JaCoby Jones to DL, recall Mikie Mahtook

“Some guys we want to see and some guys all of you (media) have been clamoring for quite bit,” Gardenhire said with a chuckle. “We want to see them, too, but we want to do it the right way. We will get it all straightened out.”

The name he was trying not to say there was outfielder Christin Stewart. Stewart is 24 and the two-time Tigers minor-league player of the year. He’s hitting .251 with an .802 OPS at Triple-A Toledo with 19 home runs and 65 RBIs on the season.

But, over his last 30 games, Stewart is hitting .198 with a .333 slugging percentage and a .654 OPS. He has four home runs and 32 strikeouts over this recent stretch.

Regardless, Stewart is not on the Tigers’ 40-man roster. So, for the Tigers to call him up in September, they would have to release a player and expose him to waivers.

That could certainly happen. Already this season the Tigers have released Chad Bell, Blaine Hardy, Dixon Machado, Drew VerHagen and Jacob Turner off their 40-man roster. Only Bell was claimed by another team (Atlanta).

The others were re-assigned to Toledo. Hardy and VerHagen have worked their way back up to the big-league club.

Side note: Gardenhire said big-league service time, starting a player’s arbitration clock, was not a factor in deciding late-season call-ups.

Zac Houston

Other players in the same boat as Stewart – players not on the 40-man roster who could conceivably be under consideration for a September call-up – include Machado, and pitchers Zac Houston, Paul Voelker, as well as younger pitching prospects Beau Burrows, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo.

Players on the 40-man roster who should be under consideration include pitchers Sandy Baez, Daniel Stumpf, Zac Reininger, Johnny Barbato and Ryan Carpenter, plus infielders Willi Castro, Sergio Alcantara and Dawel Lugo.

Fourth time the charm?

Outfielder Mikie Mahtook was back with the Tigers Monday, his fourth tour of duty this season.

“It’s been rough,” said Mahtook, who has commuted from Royal Oak, regardless if he was playing in Detroit to Toledo. “Not ideal. It’s not what I planned. I had high expectations for myself. It’s been a different year. But I have six weeks left and I am happy to be back.”

Mahtook is past trying to salvage this season, his focus is far more micro than macro at this point.

“Yeah, I am not looking at salvaging anything,” he said. “I am just trying to play well and play hard and take it one at-bat, one game at a time. If you look at trying to salvage something, you put too much pressure on yourself and you start looking too much at the big picture.

“I just need to go out, play well and be me.”

Mahtook is only hitting .200 with a .239 on-base percentage in 30 games with the Tigers. He’s regained his stroke at Toledo, hitting .251 with a .773 OPS, 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. But, in a different year, he might’ve been given more time to work through his struggles at the big-league level.

With the Tigers committed to carrying Rule 5 draftee Victor Reyes, and with Mahtook having a minor-league option, that couldn’t happen.

“This has been a different year because of some of the situations we have on the roster,” Gardenhire said. “It’s been a tough year for him because we didn’t have that many options when we’d go to send people out.

“He’s had to fight his way through it. And he played hard and now he’s getting another opportunity to come up here. ... You have to make your own way here and he knows that.”


Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer, on the disabled list with an oblique strain, will make his first rehab start at High-A Lakeland. Gardenhire wasn’t clear on the exact day, either Tuesday or Wednesday.

… The Tigers announced Monday that Turner, a right-handed pitcher, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Toledo. It was the sixth time in Turner’s career, and the third time this season, he’s cleared waivers after being designated for assignment.

… Reliever Alex Wilson pitched another scoreless inning on Sunday, and his inning-ending strikeout of the Twins' Johnny Field was the 200th of his career. Wilson has not allowed a run in 11 of his las 12 outings.

… Niko Goodrum’s nine stolen bases this season leads all American League rookies.

Twitter @cmccosky

White Sox at Tigers

First pitch: 7:10 p.m., Tuesday

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM

Scouting report:

RHP Lucas Giolito (7-9, 6.23), White Sox: He leads the Major Leagues in earned runs allowed (87), walks (71) and hit batsmen (13). Rough year for the former first-round pick. The Tigers have had success against him this season, too, scoring 10 runs on 10 hits in 11 innings over two starts.

LHP Blaine Hardy (4-4, 3.63), Tigers: He’s beaten the White Sox twice this season already, allowing just two runs in 12.1 innings with nine strikeouts in the two starts. In 46 plate appearances, the White Sox are 9 for 45 (.200) against him with three extra base hits.