Detroit — The Tigers have been playing short-handed in the infield for a couple of weeks now.
Jose Iglesias is done for the season. Niko Goodrum (quad bruise) and Jeimer Candelario (back) are close to returning from their injuries, but they aren’t ready just yet. And, on top of that, designated hitter Victor Martinez announced that his final game will be Saturday.
In the last couple of games, JaCoby Jones was designated as the emergency infielder if anything happened to Pete Kozma, Dawel Lugo or Ronny Rodriguez.
So, some kind of reinforcement was mandated. And the Tigers reached all the way to Venezuela for help.
The Tigers purchased the contract of utility infielder Harold Castro from Toledo. Castro, 24, has been in the Tigers system for eight years. He had gone back to Venezuela after the Mud Hens season ended.
“We haven’t exactly had another infielder on the bench,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And Candy and Goody still aren’t ready. They are really close, but we needed to get somebody here to cover ourselves.
“We were limited in our search, but we found an infielder — in Venezuela.”
Castro, who hit .257/.270/.315 in 74 games with the Mud Hens, was expected to arrive sometime during the game.
Candelario and Goodrum could be back as early as Saturday.
Mahtook at first?
It had to come as a complete shock to outfielder Mikie Mahtook when Gardenhire suggested, strongly, that he get a first baseman’s glove and start taking some ground balls and throws in the infield.
“I’ve never played the infield in my life,” Mahtook said. “I’m just kind of messing around with it. There’s nothing final about it or anything. They asked me if I’ve ever done it. I just, you know, anyway I can get into the lineup.”
Mahtook did some drills with infield coach Ramon Santiago before batting practice Friday.
Gardenhire wasn’t joking around about it.
“I told him, ‘Do you see what’s going on here?’” he said. “’We have a left fielder (Christin Stewart) and we have a right fielder (Nick Castellanos) who are going to play every day. And we have a center fielder (Jones) who is going to play most of the time. I think you better take some ground balls in the infield.’”
Gardenhire got a chuckle out of Mahtook’s reaction.
“He’s never played in the infield,” Gardenhire said. “Even his little league coach told him to go to the outfield. That’s what he told me. And I put him in the infield, in the big leagues, and tell him to take some ground balls.
“But it’s just a chance to get him opportunities to play and to get at-bats. That’s one way to do it.”
Around the horn
To make room for Castro on the 40-man roster, the Tigers moved Michael Fulmer (knee) to the 60-day disabled list.
... Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez has made a nice recovery. In 10 outings in August, he was tagged for 12 runs in 8.2 innings. But in his last six outings, he has dispatched 18 straight batters, striking out 11 of them.
... Jim Adduci was available to pinch-hit Friday, but he was held out of lineup with general soreness. Jarrod Saltalamacchia got the start at first base. He hadn’t played first base since 2016.
Royals at Tigers
First pitch: 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit
RHP Jakob Junis (8-12, 4.42), Royals: Tiger-killer alert. Junis is 4-0 against the Tigers this season, with an ERA of 1.74 and an 0.774 WHIP. The Tigers are hitting just .193 against him with a .294 slugging percentage. He is 4-12 with an ERA north of 4.0 against everybody else.
RHP Jordan Zimmermann (7-8, 4.41), Tigers: Opposing hitters have feasted on his four-seam fastball all season — .307, .613 slugging and a .405 weighted on-base average — a pitch he throws 43 percent of the time. His slider, however, has been good — .209, .353 slugging and .292 wOBA.