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'Like a big brother': Tigers look to pick up the slack in Cameron Maybin's absence

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Milwaukee — Last week Cameron Maybin mentioned that his agent heard a rumor that the Cubs were interested in acquiring him at the trade deadline, but a couple of days passed and JaCoby Jones put it out of his mind.

So when the trade actually went down just minutes before the 4 p.m. deadline Monday, it jarred Jones a little bit.

Outfielder Cameron Maybin's leadership will be missed, said JaCoby Jones. Maybin was traded to the Cubs on Monday in exchange for utility infielder Zach Short.

“It’s sad in a way,” said Jones, the Tigers center fielder. “He was a key guy for us in the locker room and on the field — as far as preparation and just showing guys what it’s like to be a professional.”

It was more personal for Jones.

“I know when I got called up (in 2016) he was like a big brother to me,” Jones said. “And when he came back this year, he still was. He was a big brother to everybody, honestly. He was just a great teammate, one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

More:Five reasons the Tigers were able to reverse their fortunes, get in playoff race (🔒subscription required)

The Tigers acquired utility infielder Zack Short, who was the No. 21-ranked prospect in the Cubs system, for Maybin. The Tigers will make up for the loss of Maybin on the field easier than they will in the clubhouse and dugout.

“You have to look at it like, it’s always nice when somebody wants you,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That means you bring something to the table, and he did here. There were a few health things that he battled through but he was swinging the bat well at the end.

“And he was one of the voices in the clubhouse. He’s been doing this a long time and he meant a lot to this ballclub. It’s a loss, but I’m happy for him. He’s going to another club in a playoff push and that’s what a veteran player deserves.”

From left, Tigers' Daz Cameron, Miguel Cabrera and Cameron Maybin share a laugh during batting practice at Detroit Tigers spring training in Lakeland, Fla. on Feb. 19.

Gardenhire said Victor Reyes would continue to get the bulk of playing time in right field. Jorge Bonifacio will likely continue to platoon in left field with Christin Stewart.

“The whole team will have to step up,” Jones said. “The outfielders, we will all have to do our part. Just keep playing ball.”  

Travis Demeritte was called up from Toledo to take the open spot on the active roster.

What about Niko?

For now, Gardenhire is leaving struggling shortstop Niko Goodrum in the hands of hitting coaches Joe Vavra and Phil Clark. And he’s leaving him in the lineup.

“The only thing I pay attention to is if his defense starts faltering because of his offensive woes,” Gardenhire said. “Then I would be really worried. But he’s been playing great defensively. He and (second baseman Jonathan) Schoop up the middle have been a great combination for us.

“So sometimes you are going to have to live with some of these struggles. Hopefully, he will find his way out of it.”

Goodrum took a 39.5 percent strikeout rate into the game Tuesday. In 16 games since going 4-for-4 on Aug. 10, Goodrum struck out 27 times in 67 plate appearances, hitting just .140. It was pretty much the same battle all through August — 36 strikeouts in 93 plate appearances.

His whiff rate on curveballs and sliders, 52 percent, is in the bottom five percentile of all hitters. He’s got a 46 percent whiff rate against off-speed pitches.

“Joe and Phil are doing a lot of work with him,” Gardenhire said.

Gardenhire put Goodrum back in the fifth spot in the order Tuesday.

“We’re winning ballgames,” he said. “If we were losing ballgames and he was going through this it might make a difference. But we’re winning games with that combo up the middle and I am happy with that.

"Sure I want him to put the ball in play and I want him to hit more. He’s done that here, too. You just hope he can get through this.”

Around the horn

Turns out there was a reason Gardenhire flip-flopped Michael Fulmer, who started Tuesday, and Spencer Turnbull in the rotation. Gardenhire said he gave Turnbull an extra day because he was feeling some stiffness in his back. Turnbull is expected to be good to go Wednesday.

… Utility man Harold Castro (hamstring) is getting closer to returning from the injured list. Head athletic trainer Doug Teter said Castro has been performing all on-field baseball activities without any discomfort. The next phase of his rehab — baserunning. He will probably have to spend some time in Toledo to face live pitching and get some game action.

… Also according to Teter, Jordan Zimmermann (forearm strain) will finish the live batting practice portion of his throwing program on Friday. He will likely start throwing in simulated games and intrasquads next. He seems to be further along than Ivan Nova (forearm) who was still throwing on flat ground.

…The Tigers brought the full allotment of three taxi squad players on this two-city trip — catcher Eric Haase, left-handed reliever Nick Ramirez and right-handed reliever Beau Burrows. With a doubleheader at Minnesota, the Tigers will likely use one of those players as the 29th man.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

Tigers at Brewers

First pitch: 7:40 p.m. Tuesday, Miller Park, Milwaukee

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1

Scouting report:

►RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-2, 2.97), Tigers: It will have been eight days since his last start, which is a bit unlucky since his last start was brilliant (5⅔ shutout innings with five strikeouts against the Cubs). He’d have preferred to stay in his normal routine, for sure. He’s not fared well in eight starts with six days of rest or more — 4.50 ERA with 19 walks and six hit-batsmen in 38 innings.

►RHP Adrian Houser (1-3, 4.36), Brewers: He’s a pitch-to-contact guy, who relies on moving his 93-94 mph fastball up (four-seam) and down (sinker) in the zone. The exit velocity on balls in play against him is among the softest in baseball (86 mph). Opponents are hitting just .221 against his sinker.

--Chris McCosky