No self-pity allowed: Tigers forced to restructure infield, rotation on the fly

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Miguel Cabrera had a fine night at the plate Tuesday but he needs replacing at first base,

Detroit — Think about it: The Tigers are less than 10 weeks into the season and they’ve lost to injury four-fifths of their original starting rotation and their entire infield.

Sub-optimal, even in a rebuilding year.

“As a manager or coaching staff, you just deal with it,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game. “Just try to be as calm as we can possibly be and try to put the guys who are here and who are able in the right places.

“You just try create an atmosphere.”

The Tigers’ infield will be in flux for the foreseeable future with third baseman Jeimer Candelario (shoulder), shortstop Jordy Mercer (quad) and second baseman Josh Harrison (hamstring surgery) on the injured list.

And on Tuesday, Gardenhire announced that first baseman Miguel Cabrera would be used a full-time designated hitter going forward.

Dawel Lugo and Niko Goodrum are expected to get most of the starts at third and short, respectively. Harold Castro, Ronny Rodriguez and Gordon Beckham will rotate at second.

Brandon Dixon and John Hicks will share first base, though Rodriguez and Goodrum could play there, too. Beckham can also fill in at shortstop and third base.

“We worked on all kinds of things in spring training, pick-off plays and things like that, that we haven’t even tried,” Gardenhire said. “Because the guys we worked on it with aren’t here right now.”

Gardenhire has had the infielders out for early drill work before games the past week, though the weather kept them in the clubhouse Wednesday.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, I guarantee you that,” he said. “So there’s no need to feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to play through it.”

Zimmermann rehab stalled

Jordan Zimmermann’s scheduled rehab start for the Mud Hens was cancelled Wednesday night because of tightness in his left glute.

“We had to back him off,” Gardenhire said. “We didn’t want to screw around with that, if he has a little tightness. He called and said he didn’t feel too good, so you don’t want to run him out there.”

The tightness could have altered his mechanics and potentially strained his arm.

“It’s all about his arm now, which is feeling great,” Gardenhire said. “So we will just back off for a day or two.”

Zimmermann has been on the injured list since April 26 with a UCL strain.

Step forward for Ross

Tyson Ross, another of the Tigers’ shelved starting pitchers, is scheduled to throw off a mound before Thursday's game. It will be the first time he’s done that since he went on the IL May 11 with ulnar neuritis.

“I’m just trying to get my arm strength going and feel the slope again,” Ross said. “It’s been feeling good. Just trying to stay on top of the routine I worked out and continue to move in the right direction.”

Ross said he’s been asymptomatic for a couple of weeks, but he still has a long road ahead.

“I wouldn’t say I was anxious at all,” he said. “It’s just good to be outside throwing again, good to get off a mound. It’s still a process. I am still a long way from being out there competing and getting big-league hitters out.”

A scare for Hardy

Left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy believes he might have dodged a bullet.

He was unavailable Tuesday night after he heard a popping sound in his right knee while he was running in the outfield.

“I’m not going to say I panicked, but I remember what happened to Matt,” said Hardy, referencing starter Matt Moore who felt a similar pop in April and ended up having season-ending knee surgery. “I said, ‘I’m not going to mess around, let’s get it checked out.’”

The MRI came back clean and Hardy was back and available Wednesday.

“It was just one of those freak things,” he said. “I was back-peddling to see if Victor (Alcantara) was trying to catch up to me. He wasn’t, so I turned around and the twisting of it — I heard a pop. I do stuff like that every single day and this has never happened before."

Around the horn

Tigers pitching prospect Kyle Funkhouser (shoulder) made a rehab start at High-A Lakeland Tuesday night. He pitched five shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk with four strikeouts.

“He’s just starting to get back,” Gardenhire said. “From the reports, his location was missing a little bit but he threw it well and everything came out decent. He’s definitely on our radar, but we need to let him have time, too.”

Tigers at Rays

First pitch: 1:10 p.m., Thursday

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1

Scouting report

TBA, Rays: The Rays will be using an opener and will announce which reliever will pitch the first inning after the game Wednesday night.

LHP Daniel Norris (2-4, 4.58), Tigers: He’s coming off a shaky start in Atlanta, where he hurt himself with a throwing error and a couple of fat pitches that were knocked out of the park by Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley. But on whole, he’s pitched well, solidifying a spot in the middle of the rotation.

Twitter: @cmccosky