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'It's not my team': Niko Goodrum rolls with Tigers decision to move him to second base

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — No, Niko Goodrum did not love it.

If he had his druthers, he’d be finishing up the season where he started — at shortstop — especially since he played well there defensively (plus-2 defensive runs saved). Bad enough that the first time he gets a chance to settle in at one position, it comes in a truncated, 60-game season.

And then that gets cut in half? No, he didn’t love coming off the injured list Tuesday and being told he would be moving to second base.

Goodrum also knows decisions like that are above his pay grade and he can’t really do anything about it.

Niko Goodrum

“It’s not my team,” he said before the game Wednesday. “It’s their decision that they wanted to make. I go play ball. That’s the only thing I can do, go play ball. If that’s what they feel is best for the team, the only thing I can do is play wherever they put me and go from there.”

It was an organizational decision and according to manager Ron Gardenhire, it was more about wanting to take a longer look at rookie Willi Castro at shortstop. What it means beyond these last two weeks, whether the Tigers think Goodrum’s value to the team is as a utility player or as the everyday shortstop, is apparently a topic of debate in the front office.

More: Tigers release 2021 spring training schedule

“It depends on who you talk to,” Gardenhire said. “They all have opinions. They don’t all just say one thing. All my bosses have opinions on this thing and they should. They’re the bosses and they’re the ones that have to figure this thing out.”

Castro has been on an offensive tear. His .352 average leads all MLB rookies (with a minimum 80 at-bats). His .549 slugging percentage and .931 OPS are second. But defensively, he’s been erratic (minus-7 defensive runs saved).

“We all know, and you guys saw it, Niko played a helluva shortstop this year,” Gardenhire said. “He can do that. He can also play multiple positions. He’s done that, too. This is just to get a look at Willi more than anything else, and the decisions for next year will be made next year.”

Goodrum, 28, ended up missing 14 days with an oblique strain. He missed the entire month of September last year with an adductor strain. Durability concerns could be one of the arguments in favor of keeping Goodrum in a utility role.

“I’d rather be not moving around,” Goodrum said. “But it’s something I can do. It’s something I got in my bag. The biggest thing is to go out and hit and help the team win, wherever I’m playing at. I did as good as I thought I could at short. It is what it is.

“I’ll go play second until (Jonathan) Schoop comes back and see what happens then.”

Schoop, who is out with a right wrist sprain, is eligible to come off the injured list next Tuesday.

Lost in translation

Gardenhire cleared up a comment he made Tuesday about top catching prospect Jake Rogers. Asked why Eric Haase was promoted to the active roster over Rogers, Gardenhire said, “We all know where Jake is going to be next year — he’s going to be with us, for sure.”

Gardenhire realized that could be interpreted a number of ways. He was not guaranteeing Rogers a spot on the active roster in 2021.

“With this organization,” Gardenhire clarified. “Us is a big word. I saw the way you guys wrote it and I thought, ‘That didn’t come out good.’ That’s not what I meant. He’s going to be with this organization. He’s still very high on the list of our catchers — the highest, to tell you the truth.”

Rogers made his big-league debut last season and he struggled at the plate, hitting .125 with 51 strikeouts in 128 plate appearances. He made noticeable adjustments in the offseason and looked much more comfortable in spring and summer camp.

But general manager Al Avila made it clear two weeks ago that Rogers was unlikely to be called up this season.

“He can do a lot of things on the defensive side of it that some of these guys can’t,” Gardenhire said. “And he can hit it a long way at times. But he has to be a more consistent hitter and he knows that.

"It’s just not time for him right now, that’s the way my boss put it.”

Around the horn

Gardenhire is planning on the Tigers and Cardinals finishing the season with a make-up doubleheader on Sept. 28 at Comerica Park. Those games will be played only if they impact the playoffs in any way.

“If there is a chance to move up in the standings, or get in or get knocked out — we will be playing," he said. "I’m planning personally that we are going to play on Monday.”

He was going to fly from Kansas City to his home in Minnesota. Now he is flying back to Detroit with the team.

…The win Tuesday was the 1,200th of Gardenhire’s career. A milestone that he barely acknowledged.

“That just means I’m old,” he said. “(Hitting coach) Joe Vavra said, ‘That’s 1,200 for you.’ I said, ‘1,200 what?’ That’s how much I thought about that. I just means I’ve been managing a really long time.”

…Gardenhire decided to give rookie outfielder Daz Cameron the night off Wednesday. Cameron has started his big-league career in a 1-for-24 rut.

“I have a pretty good feel for when I see a guy a little starry-eyed, kind of looking like he’s struggling mentally," Gardenhire said. "This will be a good time for him to take a bit of a break, back-step, take some batting practice, clear his head and then get back out there tomorrow.”

On deck: Indians

Series: Four-game series at Comerica Park

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

TV/radio: All games on FSD/97.1

Probables: Thursday — RHP Shane Bieber (7-1, 1.53) vs. RHP Casey Mize (0-1, 5.85); Friday — RHP Zach Plesac (3-2, 2.20) vs. RHP Michael Fulmer (0-2, 9.27); Saturday — RHP Triston McKenzie (2-1, 3.91) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (4-3, 3.94); Sunday — RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-4, 3.27) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (2-6, 6.75).

►Bieber, Indians: He’s your leader in the clubhouse for the Cy Young Award. He leads the American League in WAR (3.0), wins (seven), ERA (1.53), strikeouts (102) and strikeouts per nine innings (14.2). Opponents are hitting .108 with a 52% whiff rate against his curveball and .152 with a 64.5% whiff rate against his slider.

►Mize, Tigers: He will be looking to build off the best start of his young career. He limited the potent White Sox lineup to two runs and just one hit over 5⅓ innings last Friday. In fact, he didn’t allow that hit until the sixth inning — a double to Yolmer Sanchez.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky