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Tigers send struggling Mahtook to Triple-A

MLB.com @beckjason

CLEVELAND -- Mikie Mahtook has been trying to work his way out of a hitting slump since Spring Training. Ironically, it was a pitching bind that led the Tigers to send him out.

With Detroit needing a fresh pitcher after using four relievers following Jordan Zimmermann's first-inning exit Wednesday, the team optioned Mahtook to Triple-A Toledo. A corresponding move will be announced Thursday.

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CLEVELAND -- Mikie Mahtook has been trying to work his way out of a hitting slump since Spring Training. Ironically, it was a pitching bind that led the Tigers to send him out.

With Detroit needing a fresh pitcher after using four relievers following Jordan Zimmermann's first-inning exit Wednesday, the team optioned Mahtook to Triple-A Toledo. A corresponding move will be announced Thursday.

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"We're going to add a pitcher because of everything that's been happening the last couple days," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Tough decision, not fun at all. I really like Mikie. He's kind of scuffling right now a little bit, and I told him he needs to go down and get his swing together and get his confidence back, and he'll be right back up here. But with the way our pitching is right now, and the worries that we have, we needed to do this and add an extra pitcher."

Mahtook was one of the bright spots on last year's team, earning an everyday role after the Tigers acquired him from the Rays just before Spring Training. He batted .276 (96-for-348) with 12 home runs, 38 RBIs and a .787 OPS before a groin injury ended his season in mid-September.

Mahtook came to camp as one of the veteran position players following the offseason moves. While he tried to take a leadership role, he has had to worry about his swing. The 28-year-old went 9-for-56 with one extra-base hit in Grapefruit League play, then carried those struggles into the regular season.

Video: DET@ATL: Mahtook belts first spring homer to tie it

After a day out of the lineup Tuesday to work with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, Mahtook went 0-for-3 in Wednesday's 5-1 loss, dropping his average to .129 (4-for-31) with one double, three walks and 10 strikeouts.

"I just haven't gotten comfortable yet," Mahtook said. "It's still early. I'm not far off. I'm going to come out of it. It's one of those things you have to keep plugging away and grinding through it."

Mahtook said he's looking at the move as a rehab assignment of sorts for his bat.

"Baseball's a tough game," Mahtook said. "I've been through my struggles. Last year I struggled a little bit and came through it. There's no panic in my mind. Obviously it's not ideal to get sent down, but I know that I'm going down there for a reason. I'm going to go out there and I'm going to play well, and I'm going to be right back here."

In the meantime, Gardenhire said he'll use JaCoby Jones and Rule 5 Draft pick Victor Reyes in left field. Super utility player Niko Goodrum, who has started Detroit's last couple games in the middle infield, could also get a start there.

Video: DET@CWS: Jones steals third in the top of the 8th

"We'll just kind of divvy that up and let them play," Gardenhire said. "One thing we know for sure is that the 'Took-man needs to get swinging. This will help him, but it doesn't make me feel very good because I really like that young man. I like his enthusiasm. I know he's spinning a little bit offensively. He's trying to find his swing, and it'll come.

"This is not much fun. This is the worst part of being a manager, but we have to do this to protect ourselves."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Mikie Mahtook