Detroit — Christin Stewart returned to the Tigers a day earlier than expected.
Stewart, out since mid-April with a right quad strain, was activated from the injured list before Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Los Angeles Angels at Comerica Park. Stewart, after a whirlwind morning and previous night, didn't start, but pinch-hit and flew out to center in the ninth inning of a 13-0 loss.
"It's been a long morning," Stewart said. "But I'm here now and excited to be back for the team."
Stewart made a brief appearance in Detroit earlier in the week before he headed back to continue his rehab in Lakeland. But with the Tigers placing shortstop Jordy Mercer (right quad strain) on the IL on Thursday morning, Stewart's return was expedited.
Mercer missed Wednesday's game with the soreness, and he was officially shelved hours later.
This is the second trip to the IL this season for Mercer, because of the same injury.
The Tigers now are missing both their shortstop and second baseman Josh Harrison (left shoulder) — the longtime Pittsburgh Pirates mates who signed as free agents with the Tigers this offseason — though Harrison is expected to return soon. Harrison starts a rehab assignment in Lakeland on Thursday night.
In Harrison's absence, Ronny Rodriguez has emerged as an offensive threat, with three more hits in Wednesday's 10-3 win over the Angels, falling a home run short of the cycle. Rodriguez now could see more action at shortstop with Stewart's return, which allows Niko Goodrum to move from left to play more second. Gordon Beckham also can play either position up the middle.
Stewart, 25, one of the Tigers' top position prospects, was hitting .222/.313/.519 through 16 games before he got hurt, with three home runs and 13 RBIs.
Stewart was expected to join the Tigers for their upcoming four-game series in Minnesota, but got the call late Wednesday night — just as he was about to go on the road with Lakeland to Daytona — that he was headed back to Detroit a day early. He packed his back and headed to the airport for a 6:15 a.m. flight.
In six games with Lakeland, Stewart hit .350/.400/.550 with a homer and five RBIs, and he expects to be in the starting lineup Friday night.
"I feel good. Playing down there was good for me, getting some at-bats," Stewart said. "I'm just ready to go."