DENVER -- With the Tigers entering Monday 17 games off the pace in the American League Central, and 10 1/2 games behind for a Wild Card spot, the team enters September with the prospect of playing for something other than a pennant."In some cases, and it applies to us, you've
DENVER -- With the Tigers entering Monday 17 games off the pace in the American League Central, and 10 1/2 games behind for a Wild Card spot, the team enters September with the prospect of playing for something other than a pennant.
"In some cases, and it applies to us, you've got young players trying to prove they belong in the big leagues," manager Brad Ausmus said. "That's a big part of it, too."
Dixon Machado is one young Tiger who has proven there's a place for him. The 25-year-old infielder has played in 54 games, hitting .301. His impact has primarily come from the bench, but he's made 27 starts -- though rarely back-to-back -- including 16 at shortstop, seven at second, and four at third.
"At some point, there's probably going to have to be a decision," Ausmus said of Machado's future as a starter. "You're probably going to have to give him an opportunity and let him prove that he's not [an everyday player]."
He was not included in the starting lineup Monday night, when the Tigers opened a three-game visit to Colorado -- an Interleague series without the option of having a DH.
While Machado is a prime candidate to receive an extended stint in the starting lineup, September isn't stacking up to be a breakthrough month for him in terms of usurping starters like Ian Kinsler, Nicholas Castellanos or Jose Iglesias.
"It's a little bit tricky, because we also have veteran guys who have shown they deserve to play in the Major Leagues," Ausmus said. "So it's a little bit of a balance. It doesn't mean Machado won't get more opportunities, but you certainly just can't scrap a veteran guy who's performed.
"[For example,] I'm not just going to sit Jose Iglesias. He's played pretty well. He's an outstanding defender. He's had a good offensive year. He's had more RBIs than he's had in any season. I can't punish him just because the team isn't where we want to be in the standings and then throw his job to Dixon Machado for a month. I'm not going to do that."
After playing a total of 32 games in a series of short callups in 2015 and '16, Machado has been on the roster since Opening Day this year.
"'Machy' has done outstanding and never complained one bit," Ausmus said. "In some ways, I look at him as like a redshirt freshman quarterback. He learns a lot, even though he's not out there every single day. He learns a lot by observing and also by playing part time.
"Offensively, he's swung the bat far better than I expected."
Ausmus said both Daniel Norris (left groin strain) and Anibal Sanchez (left hamstring strain) are scheduled to make rehab starts Thursday. Norris will pitch for Triple-A Toledo and Sanchez for Class A West Michigan.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.