Jorge Bonifacio ready to make most of second chance with Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Chicago – It was some 20 hours since he got the news and still Jorge Bonifacio could barely contain his excitement.

“I was talking to my brother last night and I told him, 'I got the same feeling I got the first time I got called up,'” said Bonifacio, an outfielder whom the Tigers selected from Toledo Wednesday. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I was thinking a lot of good things – I want to do this, I want to do that.

“It’s a really good feeling.”

Jorge Bonifacio

One can only imagine, given the road he’s had to travel to get back.

Bonifacio – whose brother, by the way, is veteran big-leaguer Emilio Bonifacio – made his big-league debut with the Royals in 2017 and he did so with aplomb. In 113 games he hit .255 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs. He looked to be a foundation piece for the club.

That ended quickly. He was suspended for 80 games for using performance-enhancing drugs and by 2019 was buried in Triple-A, regardless of his 20 home runs and 60 RBIs down there.

The Tigers signed him as a non-roster invitee with no promises, no guarantees.

“I just told myself, you need to work more than you did in the past to get back there and to put those numbers back up there,” he said. “To do the things I know I can do on the field. I just told myself, keep working every day and try to get better.”

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He was impressive in summer camp. With outfielders Travis Demeritte and Daz Cameron unable to play, he started every intrasquad game. But, because he was not on the 40-man roster, the Tigers opted to keep him in Toledo to avoid having to cut another player off the 40-man.

The Tigers called up Demeritte over Bonifacio last month when Cameron Maybin went on the injured list. It wasn’t easy for Bonifacio to stay patient.

“I just told myself to keep doing my job down there,” he said. “Just try to put together good at-bats, keep playing good in the outfield. I feel like it all worked out for me.”

His opportunity was created by two factors: One, utility man Harold Castro went on the injured list Wednesday with a hamstring strain. That created a spot on the active roster. And the Tigers, who lost a premium run producer when C.J. Cron went down (knee surgery), wanted to get more power in the lineup.

"We've been having a hard time scoring runs here," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We liked the guy out of spring training. He brings some energy and life to the clubhouse. We'll see how he does. I'm looking forward to watching him swing."

Thus, Bonifacio got the call and not Demeritte or Derek Hill.

“I’m glad they are putting me right in the lineup,” said Bonifacio, who in the sixth spot in the lineup Wednesday. “That way I don’t have to think about it, just go out there and play.”

Here’s a recap of the roster moves the Tigers have made in recent days:

►Recalled or selected from Toledo: Third baseman Isaac Paredes, infielder Willi Castro, outfielder Bonifacio, pitchers Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize.

►Optioned back to Toledo: Pitchers Anthony Castro and Beau Burrows.

►Designated for assignment, off 40-man: Infielder Dawel Lugo.

►10-day injured list: Utility man Harold Castro, pitchers Ivan Nova and Buck Farmer.

►45-day injured list: Pitcher Dario Agrazal and first baseman C.J. Cron.

Farmer is expected to return Thursday or Friday, which will necessitate another move.

“I just got a good report on Buck today,” pitching coach Rick Anderson said before the game Wednesday. “He threw a simulated game today, about 15 pitches and felt really good. They said the ball was really coming out of hand, so we are excited to get him back.”

New man at the top

Again, looking to shake some life into the lineup, Gardenhire turned to the club's analytics department for some suggestions.

"We did some research," he said. "We asked the analytics guys to put all the data in there and try to see what they think and that's what came out first -- Candy. "

Jeimer Candelario, who has a career on-base percentage of .316, moves into the leadoff spot with Niko Goodrum dropping to the No. 2 hole -- at least for Wednesday night.

"He does see a lot of pitches and he's not afraid to take a walk," Gardenhire said. "We're just trying to figure out different ways to do it here with guys out of the lineup."

Candelario hasn't been as patient this year as he has in the past, with four walks and 21 strikeouts in 70 plate appearances.

Around the horn 

Gardenhire has set his rotation for the weekend series in Cleveland: Michael Fulmer, in tandem with Tyler Alexander, will pitch Friday. Matthew Boyd will go on Saturday and Tarik Skubal will make his second start of his career on Sunday. 

Twitter @cmccosky

Tigers at White Sox

First pitch: Thursday, 2:10 p.m.

TV/radio: ESPN2, FSD/97.1 FM.

Scouting report:

RHP Spencer Turnbull (2-1, 2.78), Tigers: He is coming off a rough outing against the Indians (six hits, three walks in 4.2 innings), but he isn’t getting hit very hard. Here are the opponent averages against his pitches: Four-seam (.194), sinker (.200), slider (.222, 56-percent whiff rate) and change-up (.200).

RHP Lucas Giolito (1-2, 4.88), White Sox: He’s struggled to regain the feel on his change-up, which last season was his best secondary pitch, limiting hitters to a .190 average and .360 slugging percentage. This year, opponents are hitting .333 and slugging .515 on the pitch.

Chris McCosky