Urshela (hamstring strain) lands on 10-day IL

April 20th, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tigers lost their second infielder to injury in as many weeks with ’s exit from Friday’s 5-4 win against the Twins at Target Field. Urshela hobbled off the field after running out a groundout to second base to lead off the second inning. On Saturday, Detroit placed the veteran third baseman on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain.

The Tigers recalled from Triple-A Toledo to fill Urshela’s roster spot, but versatile Matt Vierling and Zach McKinstry are expected to fill Urshela’s role at third base, where they were all sharing time.

“Lower extremity soft-tissue injuries are generally hard to avoid the IL,” manager A.J. Hinch said Saturday. “The wheels got put in motion after the game, and obviously, we’ve had our own level of injuries in the Minor Leagues as well. Luckily, we have huge depth, and Buddy … has been crushing lefties. He can play second, he can play third. He’s got a little bit of time up here, he won’t be overwhelmed, and we’re very fortunate to have him.”

Urshela sounded optimistic Saturday that his injury won’t keep him out long.

“It’s only a Grade 1 [strain], I think,” Urshela said. “I think this is a couple weeks. It’s not bad.”

Urshela said he felt his hamstring a couple of steps before hitting the bag. Though he ran out the play, he was clearly in discomfort after crossing the bag. He made no attempt to jog as he limped back to the dugout. Vierling replaced Urshela at third base for the bottom of the inning.

The game marked Urshela’s first return to Minnesota since he played for the Twins in 2022. He didn’t play at Target Field with the Angels last year because his season ended in June with a fractured pelvis. He walked to the plate to the same music he used with the Twins, which is unusual for a visiting player.

The Tigers have had a rash of injuries deplete their infield depth. They lost Andy Ibáñez to a left hamstring strain on a similar play to Urshela's on April 7. In addition, Ryan Kreidler (fractured right index finger) and Eddys Leonard (left oblique strain) are on the injured list at Triple-A Toledo. Kennedy, a waiver claim in Spring Training, was the only healthy infielder available for a callup from the 40-man roster. He played in 40 games over the past two seasons for Arizona. He’s batting .288 for Toledo with two homers and nine RBIs in 15 games.

Tigers No. 4 prospect Jace Jung is also playing third base regularly in Toledo, but the former first-round Draft pick has cooled off after a hot start, batting .235 with three homers, 12 RBIs and a .770 OPS. He has struck out 25 times in 68 at-bats. He would have needed to be added to the 40-man roster for a callup, but Detroit could move pitcher Sawyer Gipson-Long -- set to undergo season-ending elbow surgery next week -- to the 60-day injured list.

That said, Vierling’s ability to play third base as well as outfield gives the Tigers the option to call up an outfielder and have Vierling focus on infield if Urshela is shelved. Justyn-Henry Malloy is batting just .220 with the Mud Hens with two homers and eight RBIs, but the No. 7 prospect has supplemented that with more walks (16) than hits (13). Like Jung, Henry-Malloy would have had to be added to the 40-man roster.

“We called up the guy we wanted to call up right now,” Hinch said, “who we feel like can help this roster the best. We have a lot of options, but Buddy was the clear choice.”