With Akil Baddoo, Derek Hill on shelf, Tigers bring back slugger Renato Nunez from Toledo
Baltimore — The fallout from the frightening collision Tuesday night was a significant adjustment to the Tigers’ short-term roster construction.
Both the colliders — outfielders Akil Baddoo and Derek Hill — landed on the injured list. Baddoo was placed on seven-day concussion protocol and Hill on the 10-day IL with bruised ribs.
"Unfortunately, now we're scrambling a little bit," manager AJ Hinch said.
The two collided at full speed while chasing a fly ball from the Orioles' Anthony Santander in the eighth inning. The two hit knee to knee and Baddoo’s head crashed into Hill's rib cage.
"Akil is doing well, but he was diagnosed with a concussion," Hinch said. "He will have to go through the MLB protocol before returning to play. He was in great spirits. He's been at the ballpark, laughing, joking, kind of just being Akil Baddoo.
"So that's a good sign."
But when asked if he thought Baddoo would be able to step right in after he cleared the protocol, Hinch said, "He feels like he's been in a car accident. So, he's pretty beat up. He has a concussion with significant body soreness. There is no other diagnosis but that he hurts like hell."
And Hill may have got the worst of it.
"Yeah, Derek might be a little more beat up than Akil," Hinch said. "Bruised ribs. Soreness in his knee from the knee-to-knee contact. His ribs are very sore. He was hobbling around the clubhouse. Still in a good mood, still in good spirits.
"I guess it could've been a lot worse, but losing both players on one play is certainly a downer."
The Tigers, though, did not add any outfielders to replace Hill and Baddoo. Instead, they recalled infielder Zack Short from Triple-A Toledo, where he was optioned on Sunday. Also, they purchased the contract of first baseman-designated hitter Renato Nunez.
"We like the power," Hinch said. "We've been looking for a way to add him to the mix. He's had a nice season at Triple-A, he's a veteran player and he's still relatively young. Bringing him back gives us a boost in the lineup and adds a dimension of power."
Nunez, 27, who went 4 for 27 with two homers in seven games with the Tigers back in April, has been crushing the ball at Triple-A Toledo — 20 home runs, 64 RBIs, slugging .585 with a .965 OPS.
"Being in Triple-A, it helped me a lot," Nunez said. "My defense, my hitting approach, too. I decided to stay here (after he was designated for assignment in April) because I like this team. I like the way they are doing things. I think we're going to end up in a good place really soon.
"I really like it here. That's why I wanted to stay."
The Tigers presently have two true outfielders on the active roster — Victor Reyes and Robbie Grossman. In addition, Eric Haase, Niko Goodrum and Harold Castro can and have played outfield this season.
Daz Cameron, who has had two setbacks in his recovery from a toe injury, has finally started his rehab assignment with Toledo.
"If Akil is only out seven to ten days, we could get some outfield help quickly," Hinch said. "We don't need to look at the entirety of the season or anything long-term."
Still, Hinch allowed they might need some emergency help in the outfield in the next couple of series. Which is why both Willi Castro and Short, two infielders, took outfield reps with coach George Lombard before the game Wednesday.
"We're scrambling to find innings and we might have something else happen again like that," Hinch said of the need to deploy an emergency outfielder. "We have to get guys prepared. We've had conversations about Willi taking fly balls. We have to try anything and everything to man this down."
Hinch didn't commit to regular playing time for Nunez.
"We know his experience will be well-received in our clubhouse," he said. "We will give him opportunities from time to time. I'm not sure we will play him every single day."
Nunez, who hit 50 homers over three years for the Orioles, isn't complaining one bit.
"I love this game," he said. "It doesn't matter where I'm playing, I'm going to enjoy it and I'm going to play hard. I'm just glad to be on a baseball field. I've got no complaints. Never."
If the Tigers plan on using Nunez at first base, platooning with Miguel Cabrera between first and designated hitter, then Jonathan Schoop would go back to being the regular second baseman.
Goodrum, Short and Harold Castro still could share the shortstop role depending the pitching matchups.
Extending the rotation
Hinch said Wednesday that, with the possible exception of Matt Manning, none of the Tigers starting pitchers will work on regular rest for the remainder of the season.
This is part of the club's load management strategy, hoping to manage the innings while not fully shutting down any of the pitchers. Casey Mize, for example, started on Tuesday and won't start again until next Tuesday against the Angels.
Mize and Skubal, who was scheduled to start on Wednesday, would have seven starts left this season with the extra days in between. Wily Peralta and Tyler Alexander would have eight.
To do this, Hinch said he might add another starter to the mix, or sprinkle in bullpen starts The first one will be Sunday at Comerica Park.
At Toledo, veteran right-hander Drew Hutchison was pulled from his start in the second inning. He is under consideration to pitch in Detroit on Sunday.
"We want to leave ourselves as many options as possible for the Sunday start," Hinch said. "It could be a bullpen day. We might consider something like adding (Hutchison). But the only way to do that is being proactive and limiting his innings.
"It's possible that he comes up, but it's not a definitive plan yet. We need to work on this series first."
Hutchison, the former Blue Jay who will be 31 on Aug. 22, is 8-3 with a 3.70 ERA in Toledo.
By the end of August, Matthew Boyd, barring any setbacks, could return to the rotation, as well. The Tigers are also hoping Jose Urena can get back early in September.
On deck: Orioles
►First pitch: 4:05 p.m.
T►V/Radio: BSD, 97.1
►RHP Matt Manning (2-5, 6.33), Tigers: Two starts ago, he pitched a solid game against the Orioles in Detroit, victimized by an error that led to three unearned runs. But his last start was rough. The Indians put 18 balls in play with an average exit velocity of 93.7 mph. There were only five swings and misses. Interesting to see how he responds.
►LHP John Means (5-3, 2.79), Orioles: He beat the Tigers and Manning at Comerica Park on July 31 and he did with a crippling change-up. He threw 37 of them, got seven whiffs, six called strikes and an 82-mph exit velocity on the few that were put in play. The Tigers started nine right-handed hitters, which is why they saw so many change-ups. But lefties do very little damage against him, either. Catch-22.
— Chris McCosky