Tigers' Niko Goodrum turns tables on a tough August
New York — Granted, it had not been much of an August for Niko Goodrum.
Consider a .172 batting average as one window into how a rookie was struggling. Toss in an August OPS of .576 for more testimony.
But notice his work Thursday night at Yankee Stadium as the Tigers kept battering the Yankees with a barrage of home runs and comebacks that finally ended in an 8-7 victory as Goodrum launched a ninth-inning, game-winning drive into the balcony in right. It came one batter after Victor Martinez had tied the game with his second two-run poke of the night.
Goodrum had three early singles Thursday, the first two of which came when he beat out infield grounders.
He also stole a base and escaped what looked as if it would be a pick-off.
Speed and power. The Tigers can use plenty of each, particularly when Goodrum doubles as their plug-in appliance, capable of playing any position but catcher.
"Just trying to impact the game any way I can," said Goodrum, who Thursday started at first base as Ronny Rodriguez worked at shortstop and rookie Dawel Lugo filled in at second.
"I've been having a little bit of a tough time."
Goodrum's four hits moved his season average to .233.
He arrived at least a couple of days before the Tigers would have preferred, for reasons the Tigers more happily would have avoided.
But there was yet another rookie in the visitor’s clubhouse Thursday at Yankee Stadium, prepared to replace Jose Iglesias on the active roster after Iglesias hit the 10-day disabled list with an abdominal strain.
Lugo, 23, started at second base and got his first big-league hit — a searing sixth-inning double down the third-base line against Yankees reliever and ex-Tigers prospect Chad Green.
"Looking for a fastball," he said by way of interpreter Ramon Santiago, the Tigers' first-base coach.
He had gotten the word Wednesday that he would be heading to Yankee Stadium for his big-league unveiling.
He said his first at-bat, which was a ground-out to shortstop, was all nerves. So, too, was his time at second base, until he made his first put-out, on a tough grounder off the bat of Shane Robinson.
Lugo batted .269, with a .633 OPS, in 123 games at Triple-A Toledo, but was stronger in August with a .300 average and .700 OPS.
The Tigers had intended to make Lugo one of two position players added when rosters expand Saturday. They also are believed to be bringing left-handed slugger and outfielder Christin Stewart to the big-league club for the season’s final month.
Stewart, though, will not be added until Toledo’s bid to make the International League playoffs is decided.
Lugo bats right-handed and became Tigers property 13 months ago when he was part of a three-player package the Diamondbacks offered in their deal for J.D. Martinez.
Iglesias hurt his groin during this week’s series at Kansas City and is not believed, Gardenhire said, to be looking at anything season-ending.
“He’s pretty sore,” the manager said. “Ten days – hopefully, it’ll only be that.
It is expected Daniel Norris will get the start Saturday against the Yankees, even if the Tigers were being careful about any formal announcement.
Norris has been on the disabled list since April 30 with a groin strain. He pitched in five games early but was lost to another in what has been a series of maladies since the Tigers traded for him three years ago.
He began this month a rehab stint that went well, and it is believed Saturday’s start was to be formally announced either late Thursday night or Friday.
“I hope that works out,” Gardenhire said Thursday, speaking of Norris, who is 25, and who is a left-hander the Tigers would love to see flourish during September. “I’ve just got to get the boss (general manager Al Avila) in here.”
Gardenhire said the Tigers “definitely” will add multiple pitchers when rosters can tack on extra players beginning Saturday. At what pace those pitchers arrive depends, again, on how the Mud Hens’ playoff chances evolve.
“They have a chance,” he said of Toledo, which was heading to the wire, hoping to snag a postseason spot. “They’re really close. We don’t want to screw 'em up.”
Among those pitchers likely to join the Tigers, at whatever point in September: Zac Reininger, Ryan Carpenter, and Johnny Barbato.
The Arizona Fall League is where, each October and November, some of the big-leagues’ best prospects convene.
The Tigers are doing their part, sending a pair of relievers, Sandy Baez and Eduardo Jimenez, as well as catcher Jake Rogers, and outfielders Daz Cameron and Danny Woodrow.
They will play for the Mesa Solar Sox, who will be managed by Lou Marson, Double-A manager for the Angels.
Jorge Cordova, pitching coach at Single-A West Michigan, will be the Solar Sox’s pitching tutor.