Back to stay? Tigers give Candelario another shot to keep third base job
Detroit — For third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who was recalled from Triple-A Toledo Wednesday — his second down-up this season — he isn’t trying to prove, or re-prove, anything to the Tigers. That’s not the point.
“You always have to prove something every day,” he said. “But I just tell myself, I have to prove it to myself first, then everything else will take care of itself.”
The Tigers, for the record, still believe Candelario can be a big part of their future.
“This is where he belongs,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He should be in the big leagues and I’ve told him that a thousand times. I hope he stays.”
Candelario, acquired from the Cubs in 2017 for Alex Avila and Justin Wilson, hit 19 home runs last season and was hitting .276 two weeks into the season. Since then, though, he’s been in a spiral — battling wrist and shoulder injuries and working tirelessly to regain his confidence at the plate.
“When you put in good work, it’s not always going to pay off right away,” he said. “You don’t always see the results in the moment. But in the end, you are going to see it. When you put in the work, good things are going to happen.”
Good things have happened for him, at the Triple-A level. Here is how he got to this point this season:
►He was hitting .192 with 46 strikeouts on May 15 and was optioned back to Toledo.
►He played 11 games with the Mud Hens and raked — hitting .357 with a .481 on-base percentage and a 1.14 OPS.
►He was re-called on May 28. It was quicker than the Tigers wanted, but injuries had left their infield depleted. He went 0-for-10 in four games and injured his left shoulder. He was sent to Toledo on a rehab assignment and then was optioned there.
►He played in 10 games and raked some more, slashing .333/.364/.595 with three doubles, a triple and two home runs.
“He’s done what he needed to do (in Triple-A),” Gardenhire said. “We’d like to see Candy take off here. We’re in need right now. We need some people to step up and he’s a guy who has been here and done it.”
Candelario said he has come back with a clean mind and a fresh slate.
“I put myself in a good position to come back,” he said. “Nobody was trying to put pressure on me. Just work and do whatever I’ve got to do to get back. I don’t put pressure on myself. I keep that on the side. I know good things are going to happen.”
If you’ve been watching Michigan in the College World Series, you’ve noticed every player wearing plastic flip charts affixed to either their forearm or belt. Hitters, catchers and fielders are all using the charts.
You don't typically see it in the big leagues. But since Bobby Wilson has been back, the Tigers’ catchers are wearing them now, too.
“Bobby was using it at Toledo,” John Hicks said. “When he came up we kind of talked about it. It’s just a reminder.”
The cards Hicks and Wilson are using only show the tendencies and pitch plans for the opposing hitters. They aren't using them to reference pitches or defensive plays. In other words, they are far more simple than the ones the college players use.
“We have this information in our heads,” Hicks said. “But like if a pinch-hitter comes up or something, we can look at that and go, ‘OK, this is what we’re doing here.’”
Hicks hasn’t used a cheat sheet since he was at Virginia.
“With that one, you needed a degree to read it,” he joked.
The Tigers still haven’t decided on a starting (or opening) pitcher for Saturday's game against the Nationals, but it doesn’t sound like it will be Drew VerHagen.
“Everybody is part of the conversation,” Gardenhire said. “We’re looking for pitchers. Whether he’s ready to do that or not, we’re not sure. He’s not commanding all his pitches right now. He’s throwing great, but his fastball command has not been great.
“But he’s doing well. He’s come a long way.”
VerHagen, who was designated for assignment in early May and then re-signed to Toledo, has a 2.38 ERA and a .224 opponents’ batting average in seven starts with the Mud Hens. He has 31 strikeouts and six walks.
The Tigers would need to create a spot for him on the 40-man roster if they wanted to bring him back.
Around the horn
Gardenhire was asked about Ronny Rodriguez’s two-run homer in the ninth inning Tuesday.
“I’m really glad he got a good swing at that because we had the take sign on (on the first pitch) and he swung and missed,” Gardenhire said, shaking his head. “That was a really important good swing, because it allowed me not to take him in a corner and talk to him about missing the sign. He was the only one who went up there and swung.
“But that’s OK. He hit a home run, so now I’m the dumb one.”
Rangers at Tigers
First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Thursday, Comerica Park, Detroit
►RHP Ariel Jurado (4-3, 4.44), Rangers: He’s coming off a couple of rough outings, allowing 11 runs in nine innings over two starts. The 23-year-old Panamanian throws mostly his sinker (92 mph) and four-seam fastball (93.5).
►RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-7, 3.29), Tigers: The Rangers lineup is certainly no picnic, but after facing the Indians in back-to-back starts, Turnbull will probably welcome a different opponent. He had a solid, though labor-intensive, bounce-back effort in Cleveland on Friday, allowing two runs in five innings (100 pitches).