4 days off? Tigers turn to fundamentals 

Gardenhire takes advantage of extra time with drills

August 4th, 2020

DETROIT -- The scene at Comerica Park on Tuesday looked like something out of Summer Camp a few weeks ago. Manager Ron Gardenhire and infield coach Ramon Santiago were directing their infielders, trying to nail down their alignments.

“You get to add more of that. We did that today,” Gardenhire said. “We did a lot of shift drills with the infielders getting over there in our sequence -- infield back, infield in. There’s an infield all the way in, then there’s one a few steps back. So we just went out and showed them exactly that and what we’re thinking about, who we’re trying to get out.

“We were able to get some work in those situations. We do it all the time, but once you start playing the games, you kind of get away from that stuff.”

This, admittedly, is stuff Gardenhire loves, especially now that his team leads the Majors with shifts on 70 percent of the pitches they’ve thrown. It’s the kind of fundamental work teams rarely have a chance to do in the middle of a season, when off-days are for much-needed rest and pregame work is limited.

With four days off thanks to the postponement of the Tigers’ series against the Cardinals, they’re taking the opportunity to make the best of the time.

“It’s different,” pitcher said. “Not usually are you given four days in the middle of the year. But we’re going to use it to our advantage.”

The rotation will be reset, starting with Boyd taking the mound when the Tigers resume their season Friday in Pittsburgh. No starters are set after that for now as Gardenhire weighs potential changes after Boyd, Iván Nova and Spencer Turnbull.

“The problem there,” Gardenhire said, “is that if you take one guy whose turn was coming up and then you put him in the back, it’s a lot of days [off]. That’s why we’re going to do some stuff out here to get some throwing in with guys at the tail end of this rotation, and then we’re going to line the other guys up.”

Pitchers get an extra side session to work on mechanics and tinker with pitches. Hitters get extra sessions of batting practice and cage work to smooth out their swings. They’ll face each other on Wednesday and Thursday in live batting practice, Gardenhire said, before traveling to Pittsburgh.

“It’s like Spring Training,” Boyd said, “minus Gardy’s meeting in the morning. We’re making the most of it and it’s fun. You’d rather be playing baseball [games], but this is the hand that we’re dealt right now, so we’re just rolling with it.”

No, top prospects Casey Mize and won’t be included. The players working out at the alternate training site in Toledo will likely stay in Toledo, Gardenhire said.

Will Tigers and Cards make up series?
It was worth noting that MLB postponed the Tigers-Cardinals series rather than cancelling it, allowing for the possibility of making up the games. Gardenhire and Boyd acknowledged the possibility of playing games on common off-days.

“They also have games to make up with Milwaukee, too,” Boyd said of the Cardinals, whose series against the Brewers last weekend was also postponed. “Luckily we have a lot of off-days going down the stretch. I’m sure that bridge will be crossed as soon as they can get back on the field. Priority one is just getting the Cardinals healthy and safe.”

The Tigers and Cardinals have common off-days on Sept. 3 and 10. They could also have a common off-day Aug. 13 now that the Cardinals’ “Field of Dreams” game against the White Sox in Iowa has been cancelled.

Castro optioned
By the time the Tigers resume play Friday, Major League active roster limits are scheduled to be reduced from 30 to 28 players as part of the rules for this season. With that in mind, the Tigers optioned reliever to Toledo without a corresponding move to bring up another player.

Castro appeared in one game, making his Major League debut against the Royals on July 27. He gave up a two-run homer to Brett Phillips with a walk and a strikeout in an inning of work.

The Tigers will need one more move to get to 28. That could change if Major League Baseball decides to extend 30-man rosters later into the season to help teams handle injury concerns.

“We’re trying to stay at 28,” Gardenhire said. “I heard that’s what we’re going to try to do. But you never know. Whatever baseball needs to try to get through this thing, that’s what we’re going to try to do.”