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'Finish strong': Tigers' Goodrum has nine weeks to rescue a lost season

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Baltimore — Niko Goodrum has had a solid month to reflect on all the things that haven’t gone his way this season.

His run as the Tigers’ every day shortstop lasted about 30 games last season, even though he ended up being a Gold Glove finalist. The Tigers needed to see if Willi Castro could handle the position so Goodrum was back in a utility role.

Niko Goodrum.

He wasn’t given much of a chance to win the shortstop position back this year, even when Castro faltered and was moved to second base, because the new coaching regime puts a premium on versatility and versatility is Goodrum’s biggest asset.

But Goodrum didn’t exactly force the issue. He struggled both at the plate (36% strikeout rate) and, uncharacteristically, in the field (minus-5 defensive runs saved at shortstop).

Then came the calf injury. But for three games, he’s been out since June 18 with a hematoma in his left calf that just would not relent.

“It did linger,” said Goodrum, who returned to the active roster and to the starting shortstop position on Tuesday. “I had to let my body do its thing. I couldn’t really rush it too much. But I’m feeling good now.”

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Understandably, he didn’t much want to talk about the past couple of months as he readied to play for the first time since July 10.

He essentially has the next month and half to either re-establish himself as a part of this team moving into 2022, or — because he will be 30 years old and due to make potentially close to $3 million in arbitration — showcase himself for another team.

“Just finish strong,” he said. “Make the most of the time that you have. That’s what it’s all about. You can’t worry about what you missed. Just make the most of the time you have.”

Manager AJ Hinch said Goodrum, a switch-hitter who is more productive hitting right-handed, and left-handed hitting Harold Castro will likely share time at shortstop, unless one or the other gets hot.

“Niko will play there tonight and Harold tomorrow, so the first couple of days it’ll look like a platoon,” Hinch said. “Niko is still going to play in the outfield some, so we will see how it plays out. Niko has the most experience (at shortstop) and we want to get him back up and running.

“But I’m not looking too far out past this series. I’ve always said, the better you play, the more opportunity you get. This is an opportunity for Niko to get back up and running.”

Short not gone for good

The Tigers sent Zack Short back to Toledo to make room on the active roster for Goodrum. The move was announced minutes after his two-error day in Cleveland on Sunday.

Hinch made it clear he wasn’t closing the book on Short for this year or going forward.

“I love Zach and I think he's going to be a nice player for us,” Hinch said. “I think he's going to contribute. I hope he gets to come back at some point this season.”

Hinch said he expects to bring Short as part of the taxi squad when the Tigers travel to Toronto later this month.

“There is a plan in place to let him decompress and get over the last handful of games for him that really spiraled out of control for him,” Hinch said. “He's usually sure-handed and he had a rough time on defense. He's had some strikeouts in his past but he's not going to strike out at the rate he’s struck out in the big leagues so far.

“So I like the power. I like the person. I think the defender can move around the field if given the opportunity to and not just play short. … And I do think he has the makeup to overcome this little bump in the road.”

Hinch said there was a chance the Tigers could add a position player to the roster when they go play at St. Louis after the series in Toronto, where there won’t be the designated hitter rule.

“Roster-wise, we can't make any promises,” HInch said. “But we wanted to get him to get away from things that are piling up on him — both offensively and defensively. Let him play in a few games in Triple A, less pressure, less stress and hopefully get them back up here when we can.”

Around the horn

Hinch said lefty starter Matthew Boyd will make a rehab start with Toledo on Thursday. Boyd came out of his live bullpen session in Lakeland on Sunday feeling good both during and afterwards. “He was rusty, and a little erratic,” Hinch said. “But he was healthy, which is the real key. The next morning when he woke up he was still asymptomatic and feeling really good about it.”

… Entering play Tuesday, Jeimer Candelario’s 30 doubles were tied for most in the American League and third most in the majors. Since the All-Star break, Candelario is slashing .333/.426/.556 with 10 doubles, one triple, two home runs and 15 RBIs in 23 games. "I think it should tell everybody to leave his power alone," Hinch said. "His doubles power is plenty good enough. ... He's been very consistent for us and he's a really good hitter."

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

On deck: Orioles

►First pitch: 7:05 p.m.

►TV/Radio: BSD, 97.1

Scouting report

►LHP Tarik Skubal (7-10, 4.32), Tigers: A subtle between-starts adjustment, he moved his feet more to the middle of the mound, made a huge difference in his last start — five scoreless innings against the Red Sox. He was able to work his fastball in on right-handed hitters, which opened things up for his secondary pitches.

►RHP Matt Harvey (6-10, 6.13), Orioles: He flummoxed the Tigers with his four-seam, slider combination back on July 31 at Comerica Park, blanking the Tigers over 6.1 innings. The Tigers took 18 called strikes and the 19 balls they put in play against him had an average exit velocity of 86.6 mph.

— Chris McCosky