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Goodrum to take on super-utility role for Tigers

Tigers outline starting rotation through Tuesday; Smith out with ruptured UCL
February 21, 2019

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Niko Goodrum is back on the move. With the signing of second baseman Josh Harrison expected to become official Friday, Goodrum will likely go back to the super-utility role that saw him spend time at every position of the infield and both corner outfield spots last year.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Niko Goodrum is back on the move.

With the signing of second baseman Josh Harrison expected to become official Friday, Goodrum will likely go back to the super-utility role that saw him spend time at every position of the infield and both corner outfield spots last year.

“I think that’s best suited for him,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Not saying he can’t play every day, but he might play every day just moving him around. We’ll be able to give people breaks and all those things. We’re going to be lucky to have that.”

Gardenhire wasn’t ready to say that Harrison will be the full-time second baseman without talking to him first, but Harrison’s experience at the position and long-time connection with shortstop Jordy Mercer make it a likely fit.

“It’s just another hole that you were worried about, trying to figure out who was going to play out there with Jordy,” Gardenhire said. “And I’m not as much worried now because I have another veteran presence who can step in there.”

Gardenhire even floated that idea that both Goodrum and Harrison could be moved around if the situation calls for it. Harrison has played 247 games at third base in his eight-year career but only played two at the position last year.

“I don’t think either of them are afraid to go anywhere on the field,” Gardenhire added.

Goodrum appeared in 131 games last year and had a slash line of .245/.315/.432 with 16 home runs, 53 RBIs in 444 at-bats.

Reliever Smith ruptures UCL

Right-hander Chris Smith will likely need Tommy John surgery after tests showed he ruptured his ulnar collateral ligament.

Smith, who was in camp as a non-roster invitee, pulled himself out of live batting practice Wednesday after a few pitches upon feeling a tweak in his arm.

“It’s terrible,” Smith said. “You put in all the work in the offseason to come in and get ready to compete for a position. Unfortunately this is part of the game.”

Smith spent the 2018 season in the Nationals organization and went 4-5 with a 3.93 ERA in 49 appearances at Triple-A Syracuse. He appeared in four games with Toronto Blue Jays in 2017.

“It was a bummer,” Garderhire said. “He was really excited about being here. He thought this was a good opportunity for him. He’ll go home, see the doctors and get it fixed.”

Fulmer to mound next week

Michael Fulmer threw a bullpen session and live batting practice Thursday. The Tigers skipper says his next step will be to throw off the mound either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

“He threw the ball great; he felt great,” Gardenhire said.

Fulmer is recovering from late-season surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee. He will pitch wearing a brace this season and because of the brace, Gardenhire believes he’ll be a little behind schedule compared to the rest of the pitching staff.

“We want to give him time to get used to the brace,” the manager said. “It’s an adjustment when you start wearing brace. He can tell he needs a little bit more time.”

Upcoming starters

Right-hander Spencer Turnbull will be the starting pitcher in the Tigers’ spring exhibition game against Southeastern University on Friday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.

Matt Moore will start the spring opener against the Blue Jays on Saturday in Dunedin and Tyson Ross will start the spring home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday in Lakeland.

Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmerman will make starts Tuesday when the Tigers split squads play against the Phillies in Clearwater and against the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter.