Tigers turn third base over to prospect Dawel Lugo, who hits three-run homer

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Among the many Tigers struggling mightily at the plate these days, third baseman Jeimer Candelario figured to have one of the longest leashes.

So much for that idea.

Candelario was demoted to Triple-A Toledo late Wednesday night, and on Thursday he was replaced on the roster by Dawel Lugo.

Manager Ron Gardenhire wasted little time throwing Lugo into the fray; he played third, batted seventh and even homered in Thursday afternoon's opener of the four-game series against the Oakland A's at Comerica Park.

"We’re bringing him up here to play," said Gardenhire, "not to sit."

The Tigers' Dawel Lugo rounds the bases after his three-run home run in the ninth inning Thursday against the A's.

Lugo, 24, who bats right-handed, was hot at Toledo, where he slashed .341/.393/.861 with two home runs, eight doubles and 14 RBIs in 32 games. That OPS of .861 is a whopping 159 points above his average for his minor-league career.

The Tigers staring at yet another shutout, Lugo put an end to that in the ninth inning Thursday, blasting a ball into the right field seats for a three-run homer in the 17-3 loss.

When asked afterward what he wants to see from Lugo, Gardenhire dryly responded, "Well, that."

"You got the opportunity," said Gardenhire, "and now you have to carry it up here."

Lugo, tied for fifth in hits in the International League with 43, was acquired by the Tigers in the July 2017 trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for J.D. Martinez.

He had a stint in Detroit last season and in 101 plate appearances, had one home run and eight RBIs. He will be the primary third baseman moving forward, at least until Candelario figures things out. Gordon Beckham also can play third base, and it could be a landing spot for hot-hitting Ronny Rodriguez, too, once shortstop Jordy Mercer gets back from the injured list.

Candelario, regarded not long ago as the third baseman of the future, has been mired in a nasty slump that goes back well into last season. Candelario, 25, has an OPS of .573 through 38 games, and he hasn't hit better than .226 in a single month since May 2018.

In other news, slugger Miguel Cabrera was back in the lineup Thursday after missing Wednesday's game with knee soreness. He had a single and walk in three plate appearances.

Also, Mercer (right quad strain) is getting "close" to going out on a rehab assignment, Gardenhire said.

Around the horn

Tigers right-handed pitching prospect Bryan Garcia, who's coming back from Tommy John surgery, was promoted to Double-A Erie on Thursday. He was a sixth-round selection out of Miami (Fla.) in 2016.

... A's starting pitcher Chris Bassitt, from just outside of Toledo, had a whole lot of friends and family in the stands Thursday, sitting right behind home plate. Many of them were decked out in his jersey, and they were loud.

... Actor Lou Ferrigno, the original Incredible Hulk in town for Motor City Comic Con, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and impressively threw it from the mound.

A's at Tigers

First pitch: 7:10 Friday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1


RHP Frankie Montas (4-2, 2.78), A's: He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in anyof his eight starts this season, and the last two have been exceptionally good.

LHP Daniel Norris (2-1, 3.63), Tigers: The last time out, in Minnesota, was a definite step forward as he continues his quest to solidify his spot in the rotation. The velocity still seems down, but the game plan and execution have been better.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984