Detroit — In the last few weeks of the season, the Tigers are still looking to salvage some positives to take into next year.
They’ll finish with a sub-.500 record and could end up with 90-plus losses, but the remaining games aren’t about playing spoiler to contenders’ seasons. Instead, they’ll get a good look at some of their younger players, who are in varying stages of development.
“It’s fun to watch them come up here. We’ve been talking about them all summer long, about how they’re doing and checking on them,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said before Friday's 5-3 walk-off win against the Cardinals. “We’ve brought a couple of them up and hopefully we’ll bring a couple more up.”
Exhibit A is second baseman Dawel Lugo, who has gotten off to a good start at the plate, hitting .345 (10-for-29) in his first week in the big leagues. He went 3-for-5 Sunday at Yankee Stadium with a run and an RBI.
Seeing the prospects start to show some of their skill set is exciting for Gardenhire and the front office, who haven’t seen much of the youngsters firsthand since the spring — and now get a chance to do it under game conditions in the regular season.
“That makes it entertaining when you’re watching these kids and talking about our future, and they come up and have success and see what they’ve changed from spring training to here,” Gardenhire said. “That’s the last time we’ve really seen them on the field. Lugo has made a lot of adjustments and a lot of improvements.”
Gardenhire said the most important thing to watch at this stage is how prospects handle the pressure and speed of the game, establishing a rhythm and sticking with it with multiple repetitions.
It’s sometimes a small sample size, but the Tigers are getting some valuable time to evaluate their prospects in the remaining games.
Jose Iglesias (lower abdominal strain) is eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll play in the series finale against the Cardinals — or even soon after that.
“He’s still working on it. He’s not going to be back here before the 10th or so. It’s getting to a point of how long is he going to sit out?” Gardenhire said. “He hasn’t done anything on the field or anything and there’s no progress as far as that goes. He still feels it and he sat out three to four weeks and what can he do the last week or 10 days of the season?
“We’re watching him to see where he goes in the next couple days. If there’s improvement, maybe we can get him back out there. There are no rehab assignments and you’re not going to get any live (batting practice). We’ve got to gauge it as we go.”
As the Tigers honor the 50th anniversary of the 1968 World Series champions this weekend, Gardenhire shared a story of that memorable season, when he was still a youngster and trying to keep tabs.
Gardenhire grew up in Oklahoma and the closest radio broadcast was for the nearby St. Louis Cardinals. He tried to listen to the game during school — and his teacher wasn’t happy about his attempt to multi-task.
“I was sitting in the fourth or fifth grade at my desk in Oklahoma and had a little transistor radio because it was the Cardinals,” he recalled. “(My teacher) told me to turn it off and wake up.”
Cardinals at Tigers
First pitch: 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit
RHP Jack Flaherty (8-6, 2.83), Cardinals: In his last three outings, Flaherty has pitched 18 innings and has given up just three runs, with 20 strikeouts. He has four wins in his last six appearances and had a good showing against Max Scherzer and the Nationals on Monday. For the season, he has 154 strikeouts in 127.1 innings.
LHP Matthew Boyd (9-12, 4.24), Tigers: He has been turning things around lately, going 4-3 in his last seven starts and logging 43.2 innings with only 17 earned runs. Boyd has won two of his last three starts overall, going six innings in each, and has pitched better at home this season, with a 6-3 record and 2.56 ERA.