Detroit – The Tigers got some bad news before the game Monday.
Right-handed pitcher Dario Agrazal, who was scheduled to start against the Royals on Tuesday, was placed in the injured list with a right forearm strain.
The Tigers called up rookie right-hander Anthony Castro from the taxi squad.
“Agrazal just came in and pointed at his elbow,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He said he believed if he tried to pitch it wouldn’t be too good.”
The forearm strain was the diagnosis of the Tigers’ training staff. It often manifests as pain in the elbow.
It puts the Tigers in an unenviable position to use openers in consecutive starts. Michael Fulmer, who got the start Monday, was only expected to go three innings. The Tigers would have lefty Tyler Alexander available to start Tuesday, though he, too, couldn’t go much past three innings.
“We’ve got extra people, though, so this is just the best way to do it,” Gardenhire said. “We knew we were going to do it with Fulmer, just didn’t know we were going to have to do it tomorrow. We thought we could get five innings out of Aggie.
“But, bad elbow, so we’ll have to adjust.”
In another week, the Tigers might have two other choices to join the rotation – lefty Daniel Norris and No. 1 prospect, right-hander Casey Mize, who is stretched out to five innings pitching at the alternate training site in Toledo.
Castro, the 25-year-old Venezuelan and No. 16 prospect, has dynamic stuff -- a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and a darting slider. The issue has been inconsistent command -- as evidenced by his 10.2 strikeouts per nine and 5.7 walks per nine rates in 102 innings at Double-A Erie last season.
Tigers lefty reliever Gregory Soto was throwing upper-90s bullets in his 33-game big-league debut last season, too, just not enough of them were in the strike zone. In 57⅔ innings he struck out 45 (good) and walked 33 (bad).
He doesn't appear to be the same pitcher this year.
"My fastball is my best pitch and I've got a lot more confidence in my slider," said Soto through Tigers interpreter Carlos Guillen. "I've been throwing it in the strike zone, that's the big thing. I've got a good feel for it.
"I feel like I can trust my slider. I can throw it in any count, 3-2, 3-1, doesn't matter."
In two eye-popping innings against a very good Reds offense Sunday, he threw 22 pitches, 17 strikes. He struck out the last four hitters he faced, including Joey Votto looking at three fastballs — 97, 98 and 98 mph.
Soto came back this season different in two very noticeable ways: His body was leaner, he looked more agile and athletic; and, he dramatically simplified his delivery. No more leg kick or body turn, just step back, rock and fire.
"Just been working with Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) and Jeff Pico (bullpen coach), and doing all my routines at home (during the shutdown) and working on my mechanics. I've been simplifying my action toward home plate and it helps me save energy on all my pitches."
What's helped, too, he said, was having a clearly defined role. Last year he was used in long relief, as an opener and in short relief.
"That's helped me a lot," he said. "There is just one thing I need to focus on. Before I was starting, relieving, it was tougher to get into a routine. Now my body is ready because I know what I am going to do."
Around the horn
Jeimer Candelario was out of the lineup for the second straight game Monday, but not for any injury or performance concerns. "Jordy Mercer has good numbers against their guy (Royals Monday starter Mike Montgomery)," Gardenhire said. "We're just trying to get the right people in the lineup against a right-hander." Mercer is 3 for 12 with a homer and double against Montgomery.
...Center fielder JaCoby Jones was not in the original lineup Monday. He had been dealing with a sore back before he slammed into the wall Sunday making a run-saving catch against Curt Casali. He appeared to also bang his left ankle on the play. But, he told Gardenhire Monday he felt fine and was back in center field.
Royals at Tigers
First pitch: Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
TBA, Royals: With starters Brad Keller and Jakob Junis on the injured list, the Royals are in the same boat as the Tigers. Mixing and matching and making full use of the extra pitchers in the bullpen.
TBA Tigers: Right-hander Dario Agrazal was scheduled to make his Tigers’ debut but he was placed on the injured list Monday with a right forearm strain. Manager Ron Gardenhire said whoever started in his place would be used as an opener, no longer than three innings. LHP Tyler Alexander is a candidate.