Baltimore — The Tigers never expected Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison to play all 162 games this season.
The club got more bad news regarding its veteran double-play combination Wednesday. They’ve only played 12 games together this season, all in April, and don’t look for either one of them to play again any time soon.
Mercer, who is serving his second stint on the injured list with a right quad injury, had another MRI Wednesday after he felt soreness in the leg Tuesday night. The MRI showed an acute-on-chronic muscle strain.
In layman’s terms, he aggravated the heck out of a chronic condition in his quad.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said Mercer’s rehab was essentially on hold while he seeks a second medical opinion. A course of action will be determined after that.
As for Harrison, the MRI on his left hamstring showed a second-degree strain, which means there is at least a small tear in the tendon. He, too, is seeking additional medical advice. Surgery is an option with this injury, but at this point, Harrison doesn’t want to take that route.
Generally, non-surgical recovery time is four to six weeks.
That leaves Gardenhire with the nightly task of mixing and matching utility players to play shortstop and second base. For Wednesday's game Niko Goodrum started at shortstop and Ronny Rodriguez at second.
“You just try to get some bats in there,” he said. “We had a nice game (Tuesday) but we still only scored three runs. We’re trying to figure it out offensively. You just can’t keep playing one- and two-run games and expect your bullpen to hold up at all.
“It’d be really nice to get some kind of lead where we can use some other people.”
There will be more roster shuffling coming. Starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull will come off bereavement list (his grandfather died) Friday in time to make his scheduled start against the Braves.
After the game, outfielder Victor Reyes was sent back to Triple-A Toledo. Turnbull will be activated on Friday.
With Mercer’s setback, the Tigers might call up a middle infielder from Toledo — either Harold Castro or Pete Kozma. Castro was told that he’d be coming up for Turnbull, but in his last at-bat with the Mud Hens on Monday, he tweaked his oblique.
“We have to wait and see how that comes out,” Gardenhire said. “He was definitely in our thoughts. He’s a left-handed hitter and can play all over the field. Then all of a sudden, he’s out. We don’t know how bad it is.”
Third baseman Jeimer Candelario would likely be sent back if they call up either Castro or Kozma.
What about Willi Castro?
The Tigers No. 7-rated prospect Willi Castro, a shortstop acquired from the Indians for Leonys Martin last season, is raking at Toledo — .349/.426/.527. But despite a boisterous clamoring from the Tigers’ fan base on social media, he’s not been part of the discussions to replace Mercer.
The Tigers plan from the beginning, as stated by general manager Al Avila during spring training when Castro made a strong impression at big-league camp, was to keep him in Toledo until September. That plan has not changed.
The consensus among Tigers player development personnel and the coaching staff at Toledo is that Castro needs more time to learn the finer points of the game, particularly defensively. To bring him up now would be an act of unnecessary desperation and counter productive to the development plan they have in place for him.
The goal isn’t just to get Castro to the big leagues. It’s for him to stay in the big leagues once he gets there.
Three outs is enough
Gardenhire was in a tough position in the eighth inning Tuesday. The Tigers were up 3-0 and set-up man Joe Jimenez was laboring through what would be a 31-pitch inning. He didn’t have command of his slider, and he’d walked one batter and hit another to bring the tying run to the plate.
Gardenhire had already used left-hander Daniel Stumpf and right-hander Buck Farmer. Lefty Blaine Hardy was hastily warming in the bullpen when Jimenez finally struck out Orioles catcher Pedro Severino with a 3-2 fastball.
Had Severino reached, Hardy would’ve been summoned to face left-handed hitting DJ Stewart.
Gardenhire was asked afterward if he’d ever consider using closer Shane Greene for a four-out save?
“I don’t like that,” he said. “I’ve never been a fan of that. We’ve done it a few times, but I don’t like the closer to sit between innings. They are built to go three outs. When you sit them down between innings, I’ve had a lot of closers over the years tell me that’s the hardest part.
“So, I don’t want to do that.”