Kyle Funkhouser continues to progress as Tigers mull options for fifth starter
Kansas City, Mo. — There’s still a blank spot in the starting rotation.
The Tigers starter for the game Saturday against the Indians is still to be announced. They have filled that spot with an opener or a modified opener the last three times it has come around.
“We don’t have a (fifth) starter,” manager Ron Gardenhire said before Tuesday's game against the Royals. “We don’t have answers for it right now. We can say we’re going to use an opener on Saturday, but then something happens Thursday or Friday and it can change.
“We’re just trying to ad-lib right now and see how it goes.”
Gardenhire was asked about the possibility of prospect Kyle Funkhouser filling that spot on Saturday. Funkhouser, the club’s No. 10 prospect, is returning from a shoulder injury. He has made two rehab starts — one at High-A Lakeland and another at Double-A Erie.
Funkhouser went five innings in both and has built his pitch count up near 80.
“That’s a good name,” Gardenhire said. “But we haven’t had any deep talks about it, whether he can be an option or not. I have to talk to our general manager (Al Avila) about something like that. But ultimately, yes, the goal is to get him here.
“If we can get him to pitch and get people out, yeah, he can fill a hole. But he’s got to do it down there consistently.”
Funkhouser got off to a rough start at Triple-A Toledo, but he made a mechanical adjustment at the end of April and seemed to be back on track right before he went on the injured list. In his two rehab starts, he’s allowed one run with 12 strikeouts and two walks.
“Injuries and performance — that’s why he’s not here right now,” Gardenhire said. “He was one of the guys we talked about in spring training as one of the guys who could help us. But he got hurt and he hasn’t pitched great.
“But we’re at the point where he needs to step up. We would really like to see him step up.”
Funkhouser would be on five days rest Saturday, but the Tigers haven't determined where his next start will be.
Keeping Castellanos calm
Nick Castellanos and Gardenhire were shagging balls in right field during early batting practice some four hours before the game Tuesday.
“Nick’s OK,” Gardenhire said. “He just goes about his business.”
Castellanos, as has been well-publicized, is in an awkward situation with the Tigers. He will be a free agent this offseason and there has been no attempt by the club to extend his contract — nor will there be. The Tigers continue to listen to any and all trade offers for him.
Thus, Castellanos is in effect the Tigers’ lame-duck right fielder.
“We talked about that in the outfield today,” Gardenhire said. “There are things you can control and there are things you can’t. And he can’t control any of that, absolutely none of it. The only thing he can do is perform.
“Just in casual conversation, I told him, 'Just go play. You are a good baseball player and baseball is going to take care of itself.'”
Castellanos, who has hit in seven straight games but is just 7-for-31 in that stretch with two doubles and one RBI, was one of the first ones out for early BP. By his own standards, he's off to a slugging start at the plate with a .262 average, six home runs and 23 RBIs
“All I know is, he’s doing OK,” Gardenhire said. “He works his butt off. So just play baseball. He’s going to make a lot of money in this game. I think he knows that. If it’s here, great. If it’s not here, he’s still going to make a lot of money.”
Around the horn
Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (UCL strain) has had his rehab program slowed. He pitched 2.2 innings in a rain-shortened rehab start Saturday at High-A Lakeland. His next start, though, is still to be determined.
“The rain was part of it, but he just didn’t feel comfortable with his stuff,” Gardenhire said. “He didn’t feel comfortable where he was at and decided that he couldn’t help us right now, as far as his stuff goes.
“He wants to stretch it out more to see if he can find his mechanics. He wants to get into a normal routine before he comes back.”
... The Tigers lost the services of shortstop Niko Goodrum in the third inning of Tuesday's 3-2 loss. He fouled a ball off his right knee. The initial diagnosis was a bruise. Gordon Beckham took over.
"The knee is swollen," Gardenhire said. "The X-rays were negative but he's sore. We're going to day-to-day with it. He won't play tomorrow."
…Third baseman Jeimer Candelario, on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation, is expected to start a rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday.
…Starting pitcher Tyson Ross (ulnar nerve neuritis) has had a setback. Gardenhire said he felt stiffness in his neck. His throwing program has been shut down for at least five days.
…The Tigers Tuesday agreed to terms with five more draft picks: Third baseman Nick Quintana (second round), third baseman Andre Lipcius (third round), first baseman Jake Holton (10th round), shortstop Corey Joyce (12th round) and left fielder Kona Quiggle (16th round).
Tigers at Royals
First pitch: 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
LHP Danny Duffy (3-3, 4.68), Royals: His last two starts have been rough. He’s allowed 10 runs and 10 hits in just 7.2 innings. The Red Sox KO’d him in the third inning in his last start. His slider has been his most effective pitch, with a 25.5 percent strikeout rate and a 35 percent whiff rate.
LHP Daniel Norris (2-5, 4.60), Tigers: He’s been leaking a bit lately. Over his last five starts, opponents are hitting .310 with a .543 slugging percentage. He has allowed 18 earned runs and seven home runs in his last 28 innings.