Detroit — It seemed like Niko Goodrum had run smack dab into the proverbial wall.
He entered play Saturday on an 0-for-13 skid, with seven strikeouts. In the month of June, he’s hitting .228 with a .282 on-base percentage and slugging just .342. He hadn’t homered in 85 plate appearances.
“I think we’ve beaten him up,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And it’s because we don’t have anybody else to go out there.”
With the prolonged absences of shortstop Jordy Mercer (quad) and second baseman Josh Harrison (hamstring), Goodrum’s workload has far exceeded what the Tigers envisioned. He started and played his 72nd game Saturday — only Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera have played in more.
“He’s probably a little tired,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve probably overplayed him a bit. He’s supposed to be a super utility guy and he’s supposed to get days off — that luxury has not been afforded to him very much.”
Goodrum, who for the record has never once complained about the heavy workload, has been the regular shortstop since May 29.
“He’s battled injuries, but he’s played through it,” Gardenhire said. “There’s probably a lot more to it, but if we get our shortstop back it’s going to help. Just to take that load off Goody playing there every day, give him a break and I think he’ll be a more productive hitter.”
Goodrum had a productive day in Saturday's 7-5 win over the Nationals, though. He had two hits, including a go-ahead, two-out single in the seventh, and a walk. He also made two sterling defensive plays back-to-back in the second inning.
Mercer’s return is getting close. He played nine innings at shortstop Friday night in his rehab assignment for Triple-A Toledo and went 2-for-5, scored three runs and knocked in three runs.
“He had a good day,” Gardenhire said. “We hope he’s just a couple of days away (from returning). Everything is going great. He played a full game (Friday). He’ll probably DH today and then play another full game and then we’ll see.
“I’m just letting him go through the program they wrote for him so that when we do get him back, he’s healthy.”
Turnbull staying patient
If it was up to him, Spencer Turnbull would have pitched right through the shoulder fatigue that has landed him on the injured list through the All-Star break.
“It’s out of my control,” he said. “They’re just being cautious and stuff. I understand, but it’s disappointing. You’ve got to deal with people’s opinions and some of that stuff can be difficult. But it is what it is.”
The Tigers, who have had five starting pitchers land on the injured list this season and two of them out for the year, weren’t going to be anything but over protective of their 26-year-old rookie right-hander.
Especially given his history of shoulder issues. So when Turnbull's fastball, normally 94-96 mph, was reading as an 87-mph slider in his start Thursday, they took immediate action.
“I didn’t feel any pain,” he said. “I felt pretty normal, it just wasn’t coming out.”
Turnbull has increased the intensity of his shoulder program and expects to return to the rotation after the break. If he does, he will have missed essentially two starts.
“I appreciate them being cautious,” he said. “They care and they are trying to do the right thing. I appreciate that a lot. But I want to be out there for my teammates.”