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Tigers hope to keep Machado, level out swing

Infielder was designated for assignment Wednesday; Alcantara returns to bullpen
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The Tigers carried Dixon Machado on their Major League roster through all of last season rather than risk losing him on waivers. That they were willing to risk a waiver claim and designate him for assignment Wednesday says a lot about the Tigers' situation, as well as his.

"We weren't really using Machado very much lately," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've been trying to work on his swing and all those things, and [Niko Goodrum] was playing so doggone good we had to keep him in the lineup some way or another, and second base he ended up at most of the time.

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DETROIT -- The Tigers carried Dixon Machado on their Major League roster through all of last season rather than risk losing him on waivers. That they were willing to risk a waiver claim and designate him for assignment Wednesday says a lot about the Tigers' situation, as well as his.

"We weren't really using Machado very much lately," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've been trying to work on his swing and all those things, and [Niko Goodrum] was playing so doggone good we had to keep him in the lineup some way or another, and second base he ended up at most of the time.

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"Goody basically took the job and ran with it, and he's been hitting the ball from both sides and playing well. Machado needs to play. He doesn't need to sit. If he's going to find his swing, he's got to play, and this is a hard level to do it at, and so his struggles end up forcing us to do something like this."

• Gardenhire thrilled by Goodrum's development

Video: DET@TOR: Goodrum triples, scores go-ahead run in 10th

Machado's offensive struggles have been well chronicled. After a hot start to the season that included eight doubles in April, his average slumped to .206 (44-for-214) for the season with just a .553 OPS.

Once Goodrum heated up at the plate in a regular role, Machado essentially became the under-used utility infielder that he was last season. His ratio of ground balls to fly balls plummeted to near-even this year, and while his line-drive rate ticked up this season, his exit velocity barely rose.

Essentially, Machado fell into the trap of hitting for fly balls and home runs. His average launch angle of 10.5 degrees was easily a career high and more than double his angle for the previous two seasons.

"Hitting the ball up in the air doesn't help him here," Gardenhire said. "Until he learns to cover the ball and use the whole field, he's going to have a hard time playing in the middle of the infield."

Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and others have been working on getting Machado's swing back level, but Gardenhire said it takes time. It also takes at-bats, which he wasn't getting here.

The Tigers would like him to get those at-bats at Triple-A Toledo. If he gets picked up by another organization in the Majors, that's a risk the Tigers will have to accept. Even if Machado clears waivers, he has the right to refuse an outright assignment and become a free agent, since he was outrighted after the 2013 season while he was still in the Minors.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster. Within seven days of the transaction (had been 10 days under the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement), the player can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

"It might be the right fit for somebody and they want to take a shot at him," Gardenhire said. "You just never know in those situations, but we determined that this is the right thing for our ballclub up here to try to move forward. He needed to go swing, and the only way to do it is see if this goes through where he can get down there and get some swings in."

Gardy dealing with stomach bug
Gardenhire was still drinking in electrolytes Thursday, one day after he left the Tigers' series finale at Wrigley Field due to dehydration. Too much time in the sun and heat pregame on Wednesday was one factor, but Gardenhire cited a stomach virus as another.

"We had batting practice and I was running around like a wild man out in the outfield, shagging balls, trying to get some exercise," Gardenhire said. "Kind of overdid it, got a little dehydrated and then overheated in the dugout."

Gardenhire was back in the dugout for Thursday's game, despite similarly hot weather in Detroit, where the National Weather Service stated the high temperature of 96 tied the city's all-time record for the day.

Alcantara joins bullpen
Victor Alcantara's struggles as a September call-up last year were enough that the Tigers outrighted the hard-throwing right-hander last offseason to open a roster spot. His return Thursday says a lot about the season he has had, posting a 4-1 record, 2.68 ERA and a 44-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 47 innings at Triple-A Toledo.

Alcantara stated through a translator that he came into the season wanting to make quality pitches, change speeds and concentrate on hitting the mitt where the catcher puts it. He wanted to push for a second chance after giving up seven runs on 12 hits over 7 1/3 innings with four walks and five strikeouts.

"He's a young guy who gets too excited," Gardenhire said, "but he's been throwing the ball really good down there. His walks are down. He's got a great arm; we saw that in Spring Training. Now it's controlling his windup. There's a lot to it when he's delivering the ball. There's a lot of herky-jerky stuff. But if he can throw it in the strike zone and down, throwing that hard, he'll help us."

Quick hits
• The Tigers continue to wait for an exam on Shane Greene's strained right shoulder, Gardenhire said, after the closer went on the 10-day DL on Sunday.
Jeimer Candelario, who entered Thursday in an 0-for-8 slump to close out a 5-for-24 road trip, said he has been receiving hitting tips and ideas from Victor Martinez.
Drew VerHagen, currently on the 10-day DL with a fractured nose from a couple weeks ago, is scheduled to throw at least one more rehab outing for Triple-A Toledo, Gardenhire said. VerHagen gave up two walks and a hit over 1 1/3 innings with one hit allowed.

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

Detroit Tigers, Victor Alcantara, Dixon Machado