The first positive news Tigers manager A.J. Hinch received about his ace, Matthew Boyd, came as Hinch headed out for his morning coffee Friday after a late-night flight from Chicago to New York.
“I was going to get coffee this morning, and he was walking on the street,” Hinch said, “so that’s a good sign when he’s walking a little bit.”
The Tigers will hope for something more official when test results come back on Boyd’s left knee, which forced him out of Thursday’s start against the White Sox with what was initially diagnosed as tendinitis. But for now, Hinch is hopeful that the left-hander has a minimal stay on the injured list, if any.
“I’m not a doctor,” Hinch said, “but the feedback has been very positive that this is likely to make him miss a start in Boston, may or may get all the way to that 10-day IL. We haven’t discussed it in its entirety yet, but it’s somewhere in that range, which is a lot better than knowing right now that he would immediately be missing multiple starts.”
Boyd has never been on the injured list in his pro career. The Tigers could conceivably place him there and still skip him for only one turn thanks to an off-day Monday. That would allow the team to get an extra reliever while Michael Fulmer presumably fills in, or give Hinch an extra hitter. The Tigers could also push Boyd back in the rotation, avoid the IL and not need a replacement starter; Monday’s off-day means the Tigers wouldn’t need a fifth starter until next Sunday. The Tigers return home next weekend to face the Twins, followed by the Royals and Cubs.
Regardless, the early news is a sigh of relief for the Tigers, for whom Boyd has been a much-needed bright spot in a rough start to the season. Despite allowing two runs on three hits in an inning-plus against the White Sox on Thursday, Boyd still has a 2.27 ERA, the sixth lowest among qualified AL starters entering Friday, and 35 2/3 innings pitched, the fourth most in the AL.
Hitting Harold hustles out to left
Harold Castro hadn’t played the outfield in a game since last September, and he barely played there in Spring Training. With the Tigers looking to stack left-handed hitters against Gerrit Cole on Friday, the super-utility infielder started in left field.
Expect more mixing and matching as Hinch tries to spark an offense that entered Friday averaging an MLB-low 2.9 runs per game, including 26 runs in the last 14 games and one run in Thursday’s doubleheader sweep.
“I put [Castro] in the outfield because he’s putting up really good at-bats,” Hinch said. “We’re entering May and we’ve had a month-long look at this. I think guys are going to have to step up and do well when they get any opportunity. There’s not a lot of free playing time. If guys are playing well, I’m going to play them. We need to put out guys in the lineup, guys that can be productive or putting up good at-bats, hit the ball hard, find hits. I mean, we can’t afford to just sit around and play fairness.”
In other Castro news
Another reason Harold Castro is getting outfield time is that Willi Castro is finding increased time at second base. Friday marked his seventh start there in Detroit’s last 11 games, compared with two starts at short.
“We’re trying to develop Willi at second base a little bit more regularly, rather than bounce him back and forth,” Hinch said. “He may or may not play shortstop this series.”
Not-so-big taxi squad
The Tigers arrived in New York with a four-player taxi squad: Outfielder Derek Hill, who served as the extra player in Thursday’s doubleheader at Chicago, joined catcher/utility man Eric Haase and relievers Ian Krol and Kyle Funkhouser.
With the Triple-A season set to begin Tuesday in Toledo, Ohio, that taxi squad is expected to shrink, if not next week in Boston, then the following road trip. Since the vast majority of Tigers Minor Leaguers have been vaccinated, they don’t have to go through the same protocols as at the start of the season, so it’s easier for them to travel and join the club in a pinch.
“As games get underway, our emphasis for them is going to be to play in games, and if needed, we can call them up,” Hinch said. “At home, it’s relatively easy. On the road, depending on where we are, we may take a taxi-squad member to Seattle on our next road trip, just because it’s tough to get guys that far across the country.”