Báez (back) placed on IL; Kreidler recalled

June 11th, 2024

DETROIT -- The Tigers placed shortstop on the 10-day injured list Tuesday with lumbar spine inflammation, a condition he has been dealing with for much of the season -- and intermittently for much of his tenure with the team -- but one that had become unmanageable in recent days.

Infielder , who was viewed as Detroit’s potential shortstop of the future a couple of years ago, was recalled from Triple-A Toledo. He’s expected to split time at shortstop with Zach McKinstry, who had been getting starts at short for both platoon and health purposes while Báez tried to manage his back issues.

Báez underwent imaging on his back and will travel to Florida while he awaits consultation with doctors and specialists. The Tigers don’t have a timetable for his return, but manager A.J. Hinch made it clear this is not simply a break to let the back rest. The team wants Báez to be fully healed before he returns.

Báez twice referenced a second-half return when discussing the injury with reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s not an easy decision for me,” Báez said, “because obviously, I want to be out there. But if I want to help this team long term, I have to do it.”

While Báez has struggled to recapture his top form from his Cubs days since he signed with the Tigers as a free agent on Nov. 29, 2021, this season has been one of the toughest of his career. The 31-year-old is batting .183/.209/.247 with one home run, 25 RBIs and a .456 OPS. His 30 OPS+ puts him 70 percent below the American League average offensively.

Báez has produced highlight plays defensively, but his metrics -- including a minus-1 bWAR and minus-3 Outs Above Average -- put him in negative territory for the first time in his career.

“One of the things about Javy through all of this has been his persistence on being in the lineup and being available and giving whatever he can,” Hinch said. “Tough kid, and he wants to play through everything, from the peaks and valleys of performance to back inflammation to pain to things that happen on the field. I mean, he flies all over the place, dives all over the place.

“I don’t have a measure on [how much this] has impacted him, but I know that I’m happy he told us so that we can try to get to the bottom of this and get him healthy.”

Kreidler -- a fourth-round Draft pick out of UCLA in 2019 who emerged as a prospect alongside Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson in 2021 -- has his own injury history, including two fractures on his right hand from hit-by-pitches. The latest, a fractured right index finger he sustained with Toledo on April 6, sidelined him for nearly two months and resulted in a screw being inserted in his finger to aid in healing. After a rehab assignment at Single-A Lakeland, Kreidler returned to Toledo on June 3, going 4-for-15 (.267) with a home run and four RBIs in five games for the Mud Hens.

Kreidler has played a variety of positions since last season in preparation for a potential utility role. He filled such a role down the stretch in 2022 and the start of '23, and he competed for one of the final spots on this year’s Opening Day roster during Spring Training. This time, he’s expected to focus on shortstop.

“We’ve been waiting for Kreidler to get healthy and get up and running,” Hinch said. “He had a slow ramp at the beginning of his rehab and things have been a little bit better. But I told Ryan that this is probably going to be the first time in his Major League career where he feels like he’s in the mix a little bit more.”

That’s welcome news for Kreidler, who was notably frustrated at not making the team out of camp after a strong Spring Training (.306/.444/.472 slash line).

“Hopefully, it’s just a short time for Javy and he’s back with us pretty soon,” Kreidler said, “but it’s a great opportunity for me. I’m going to embrace it and try to play hard, and keep these guys in the mix and do my part on defense and win some games.”