Until the offense comes, Tigers' Candelario making winning plays with his glove

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — It’s funny how you aren’t hearing much about Jeimer Candelario going 0 for 17 with six strikeouts to start the season. There’s a reason for that.

He’s been playing Gold-Glove caliber defense. He’s been flawless. Before Thursday, he made all 16 plays that have come his way, posting a plus-2 defensive runs saved. He’s made plays on the charge. He’s made plays going to his right and left, and he’s made plays in the shift playing in either the shortstop or second base position.

“I’ve been working really hard, getting better every day with my routine,” Candelario said. “Ramon Santiago (infield coach) has put in a lot of effort with me, taking ground balls, making me prepared for any ground ball.

Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario runs and fields a ground ball in front of Niko Goodrum, left, and gets the out at first in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday.

“I want to get better offensively and defensively to help my team win. I put in the effort and I know I am getting better.”

His hands have never been his problem defensively. When Candelario first came to the Tigers, he was in the habit of being tardy and slow in his pre-pitch set-up. His first move when the ball was hit was always to squat and then move to the ball.

He’s learned to start in that squat position and get in an athletic position as the pitch is being delivered, not after it’s been hit. His range has improved dramatically as a result.

More: Miggy goes deep twice, but Tigers drop series finale vs. Royals, 5-3

“It’s just getting my first step the right way,” he said. “Right now I am getting it the right way so I can get to the ball and put myself in a good position to get the ball and make an accurate throw. Everything right now is, ‘I want the ball, I want the ball. Give me the ball. I want to make a play. I want to help my team. I don’t want to waste outs. I want to take everything I can get to help my team.'

“That’s my mentality right now.”

Candelario had a light-bulb moment this winter playing for Toros del Este in the Dominican League. He learned that you can have a lot of fun playing this game when your team is winning. He only hit .244, but the Toros won their division.

He’s brought that maturity into this season.

“Sometimes things don’t go the way you want, but if we play really good at third base until the hitting comes, I can still help my team, no matter what,” he said. “I don’t take my at-bats to my defense. Right now, I just play to win.

“My mindset is I want to win. I want to help my team win. That’s my mentality, no matter if I’m 0-for-3 or 3-for-3. My mindset is to win, and that’s helped me a lot.”

Daniel Norris

Dialing Daniel Norris? 

The Tigers have their starting pitcher for Sunday as the obligatory To Be Announced. It would be the fifth spot in the rotation, which Rule 5 rookie Rony Garcia admirably filled for injured Dario Agrazal on Tuesday.

Daniel Norris, still on the injured list and working with the taxi squad in Toledo, has made two outings there. The club is trying to decide if he’s ready to come up.

“You talk to Danny, he’d love to be here right now,” Tigers pitching coach Rick Anderson said. “His first outing he was spraying the ball around a little bit. But he threw a couple of days ago and was much, much better.

“But he’s no different than the rest of the guys, he needs time on the mound.”

Anderson said No. 1 prospect Casey Mize has stayed on track, too.

“That’s what sucks about not having a minor league season,” Anderson said. “For all those pitchers in the minor leagues, all of them, it’s going to be a wasted year and that’s a big part of their development — whether you are in rookie ball or Triple-A.

“Mize is doing fine. We’re keeping him stretched out, just like all those other kids -- Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo.”

Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera rounds third base during an intrasquad baseball game, Friday, July 17, 2020, in Detroit.

Miggy rebound 

Miguel Cabrera entered play Thursday with two hits in 22 at-bats, which is way down on the list of Gardenhire’s concerns.

“He’s trying to find his swing,” Gardenhire said. “He’s frustrated. He’s hit the ball on the nose and it’s going at people right now. It’s just one of those things. He wants to be a part of this thing and he will.”

According to Statcast data, Cabrera has a 13 percent barrel rate, which is twice as high as last season. Although, the exit velocity on balls put in play is a career-low 89.5 mph.

“This guy can hit,” Gardenhire said. “He’s hitting bullets right at people. He’ll find his swing and get some holes and get on a run. I have total respect for this guy and treat him as I should. Right now it’s early and he wants to play.”

Gardenhire was on to something. Cabrera homered in his first at-bat Thursday, a drive into the seats in right field off rookie Brady Singer. Miggy homered again in the eighth to make it 5-3, bringing his career total to 480 — good for 30th on MLB's all-time home run list.

Around the horn

►Gardenhire was looking for a day to let shortstop Niko Goodrum rest. He’s played every inning of every game. Turned out, fate intervened. Goodrum played with a stiff neck Wednesday night and had a chiropractic adjustment Thursday. Harold Castro started instead and Goodrum will be available off the bench.

►The Minnesota Twins are placing cardboard cutouts of famous players and coaches from their past in the seats at Target Field. So Gardenhire will have the odd sensation of seeing himself in the stands when the Tigers play the Twins in Minneapolis in September. “Obviously, there’s going to be some kind of payment for putting me in the stands,” he joked. “Now that you brought that to my attention, I am going to have my agent check it out. If I’m not sitting in the first-class seats up front I’m really going to be hot.”

On deck: Reds

Series: Three-game series at Comerica Park

First pitch: Friday — 7:10 p.m.; Saturday — 6:10 p.m.; Sunday — 1:10 p.m.

TV/radio: Friday and Sunday — FSD, 97.1; Saturday — FSD, FSD1, 97.1

Probables: Friday — RHP Luis Castillo (0-0, 1.50) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (0-0, 1.80); Saturday — RHP Trevor Bauer (0-0, 1.42) vs. RHP Michael Fulmer (0-0, 13.50); Sunday — RHP Anthony DeSclafani (0-0, 0.00) vs. TBA

Castillo, Reds: Had the Reds not been rained out Thursday, the Tigers might have missed the hard-throwing Castillo this time around. Bad break for them. He struck out 11 Tigers in six innings of work in Cincinnati last weekend.

Turnbull, Tigers: He matched Trevor Bauer pitch for pitch for five innings last Sunday, allowing just one run with eight strikeouts. He struck out former teammate Nick Castellanos three times, the last with the bases loaded.

Twitter @cmccosky