Detroit — This is the conflict for Niko Goodrum:
His heart says to do whatever it takes to get back and play again before the season ends. Don’t let what has been an encouraging second full season in the big leagues end on the injured list.
His head, though, is saying pump the breaks. Be smart. Don’t risk turning an adductor strain into a groin tear that might require surgery by rushing to get back for a handful of games at the end of a lost season.
“It’s tough,” he said. “But I’ll deal with it.”
The Tigers put a 10- to 14-day recovery time on this, which could conceivably get him back on the field for the last two weeks of the season.
“That’s the plan,” Goodrum said Thursday morning as he prepared for another physical therapy session. “I just have to make sure I’m good to go. I don’t want to do something to make it worse and then it becomes something that needs surgery.
“I just have to make sure I am back to 100 (percent).”
The switch-hitting Goodrum has been one of the few consistent offensive producers for the Tigers this season. His 112 games and 45 RBIs are second only to Miguel Cabrera. His .248 average (.274 since the All-Star break), .322 on-base average and .743 OPS trail Cabrera and the departed Nick Castellanos among qualifying hitters.
His 12 stolen bases lead the team. His 27 doubles are second to Castellanos and his 12 home runs are second to Brandon Dixon.
All of that while playing solid to strong defensively at every position but pitcher and catcher.
None of which has Goodrum feeling particularly satisfied or content.
“I can be better,” said Goodrum, who has committed 15 errors playing seven different positions this season. “Everyone strives to do better than they’re doing. So I’m just always trying to get better and trying to be better. That’s just how it is for me.”
One of the offseason discussions organizationally will be if it’s best going forward to keep Goodrum in the super utility role or lock him into one position. He played 38 games at shortstop this season and opened some eyes with how comfortable and effective he was there.
“It’ll depend on what he have here,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “All those roles will be defined by the people we bring to spring training. Who do we have here that’s ready for this and who are they going to sign.”
Willi Castro’s performance this last month could be determining factor, as well. If the Tigers believe he is ready to be the everyday shortstop next season, then Goodrum’s role will stay as is it. But Goodrum may have shown enough that Tigers won’t feel the need to sign another veteran stopgap shortstop — the thinking being Goodrum could handle the position if Castro still needed more seasoning at Triple-A at the start of next season.
“We will see what happens,” Goodrum said. “Just keep working, keep it moving.”
Harold Castro has emerged as a capable utility player, too, as well as a solid left-handed bat. So, he and Goodrum give the Tigers a lot of options at shortstop, second base and center field.
The Tigers didn't score any runs, but they stole one from the Indians on Thursday with a perfectly executed relay in the fourth inning.
With two outs, Indians third baseman Yu Chang tried to score from first on a bloop single to center field by Mike Freeman.
Center fielder Harold Castro dived for the ball but couldn't get his glove on it. Left fielder Victor Reyes was quick to pick the ball up fired it to shortstop Willi Castro. Castro's throw skipped to catcher Jake Rogers.
Rogers made a scooping catch of the throw as he was moving into Chang's path and applied the tag.
"That's what we've been talking about," Gardenhire said. "Those are the little things that will come together the more they play together."
Around the horn
Designated hitter Miguel Cabrera was held out for the second straight game with tightness in his left biceps. He took batting practice in the cage before the game, but Gardenhire said it was still sore. They will test it again Friday.
... Brandon Dixon's August swoon continued Thursday. He struck out three times against Indians starter Mike Clevinger. In his last 14 games he's struck out 27 times in 58 plate appearances. In August, he's hitting .217, no homers, 1 RBI, with 38 strikeouts in 101 plate appearances.
On deck: Twins
► Series: Four-game series, Friday through Monday, at Comerica Park, Detroit
►First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Friday, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, 1:10 p.m. Sunday and Monday
► TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM all four games
► Probables: Friday — RHP Kyle Gibson (12-6, 4.49) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (3-7, 8.70); Saturday — LHP Martin Perez (9-5, 4.53) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (6-10, 4.47); Sunday — RHP Michael Pineda (10-5, 4.16) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-13, 4.18); Monday — RHP Jake Odorizzi (14-6, 3.55) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-9, 6.24).
► Gibson, Twins: The Tigers scored five runs off him last weekend in Minnesota, but he still got the win. He's made good use of the 6.13 runs per start his offense has provided him. He's been hit hard on the road in 12 starts (.288 opponents' average, .808 OPS and 1.50 WHIP).
► Jackson, Tigers: He's allowed 10 earned runs in 10 innings over his last two starts. Right-handed hitters have been beating him up all year — .379 average, slugging .750 with an OPS of .1.180. Eleven of the 17 home runs he's allowed have been hit by right-handed hitters.