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Houston — A message was sent to Christin Stewart on Thursday.

It came in the form of this announcement: The Tigers have returned Stewart from his injury rehab assignment, reinstated him from the 10-day injured list and optioned him to Triple-A Toledo.

Manager Ron Gardenhire had said Wednesday the only way Stewart was coming back to the Tigers right away was if Niko Goodrum had to go on the injured list because of his ailing groin. Goodrum was back in the starting lineup Thursday.

“He just needs to play,” Gardenhire said of Stewart. “He needs to get regular at-bats. It will be good for him. We’ve got kind of a mess up here with our roster, so this is good…It’s not a bad deal, though he might be frustrated.”

It’s been a disappointing rookie season all the way around for Stewart. He’s produced seven home runs and is slugging .393 in 327 plate appearances for the Tigers. In his 11-game stint at Toledo while on concussion protocol, he hit .295 but with one home run and 16 strikeouts in 51 plate appearances.

“He needs to hit,” Gardenhire said. “He hasn’t hit much up here. He’s had a few good days but he’s been inconsistent.”

More than that, though, Gardenhire said, Stewart still has a long way to go before he can adequately patrol left field on a daily basis at Comerica Park.

“Defensively, he’s got to get better,” Gardenhire said. “He can’t continue to struggle. He’s worked very hard and he has improved, but he still has to get better in the outfield to play the field at our place, because our field is huge.

“He has to work on his throwing. There are a lot of things he can work on to improve the rest of this season and when we get to spring training.”

Gardenhire said the plan is to bring Stewart back up with the other call-ups in September. But presently, the Tigers are giving Victor Reyes and Travis Demeritte long looks at the corner outfield spots.

So long Venezuela

This could change, of course, but as of right now, Major League Baseball announced it will not allow affiliated players, either minor leaguers or major leaguers, to participate in the Venezuelan Winter League.

This was done in compliance with U.S. economic sanctions in place against the Venezuelan government.

“It's really sad,” Gardenhire said. “I played over there. It's a beautiful country, but they've gone through a lot of political stuff and that's really sad. When I was there, we were free to roam. We won the Caribbean World Series the only year I went over there.

“So I have great memories of Venezuela.”

It’s been an immensely beneficial training ground for young Latin and American players, alike. Tigers' Harold Castro and Reyes made huge gains after playing there last winter. Both live in Venezuela in the offseason and want to play winter ball again.

“So far I haven't seen anything official,” Reyes said through interpreter Carlos Guillen. “I just know what I see on social media. It's something I have to wait and see what I'm going to do in the winter. Playing winter ball has been great for me and a lot of players. It's helped me improve my skills to be ready for spring training and for the season.

“But again, I just have to wait and see what happens."

Castro said he was contemplating moving to the Dominican to play there this winter.

"I don't know,” he said. “I have to wait and see what happens. I was thinking about going back and playing, yes. Now, maybe I have to move where I can play. I want to play."

How many outs?

After Daniel Norris struck out Jose Altuve to end the third inning on Wednesday, all nine Tigers players stayed on the field. None of them immediately knew it was the third out.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen the whole team not know there was three outs,” Gardenhire said. “It was all because of the pitcher. He didn’t leave, he didn’t start to walk off. He said he looked around and no one else was walking off, so he didn’t.

“We were pretty much laughing about it.”

Gardenhire’s first thought was that he maybe had it wrong.

“I was sitting in my chair and I wrote (the strikeout) down,” he said. “I started getting up and they weren’t moving. I was like, ‘Did I screw up?’ I thought I screwed up. You can’t make this stuff up.”

On deck: at Twins

Series: Three-game series at Target Field, Minneapolis

First pitch: Friday – 8:10 p.m.; Saturday – 7:10 p.m.; Sunday – 2:10 p.m.

TV/radio: All three games on FSD/97.1

Probables: Friday – RHP Drew VerHagen (3-2, 6.67) vs. RHP Jose Berrios (10-6, 3.37); Saturday – RHP Edwin Jackson (3-6, 8.46) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (11-6. 4.40); Sunday – Matthew Boyd (tentative) vs. LHP Martin Perez (8-5, 4.60).

►VerHagen, Tigers: He pitched his way back into the rotation with five shutout innings out of the bullpen against the Rays on Aug. 16. He was strong in his last start, as well, allowing a run over five innings against the White Sox on Aug. 6.

►Berrios, Twins: It’s been a rough month for him. In three starts, he’s allowed 15 earned runs in 16 innings. Opponents are hitting .314 against him and slugging .586, with an OPS of .970. He’s allowed five home runs in those three starts.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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