DETROIT -- Niko Goodrum and Ronny Rodriguez opened the series against Houston on Monday at first base and shortstop, respectively. On Tuesday, they switched positions in the starting lineup. On Sunday, Goodrum was Detroit's starting right fielder, giving Nicholas Castellanos a day at designated hitter.This is manager Ron Gardenhire's current
DETROIT -- Niko Goodrum and Ronny Rodriguez opened the series against Houston on Monday at first base and shortstop, respectively. On Tuesday, they switched positions in the starting lineup. On Sunday, Goodrum was Detroit's starting right fielder, giving Nicholas Castellanos a day at designated hitter.
This is manager Ron Gardenhire's current conundrum. With starting shortstop Jose Iglesias out, first baseman Jose Cabrera done for the season and no natural replacement at either, the Tigers have been shuffling so far through September. Dawel Lugo's arrival from Triple-A Toledo has taken second base out of the mix, but with other regulars needing days off and limited infield depth, Goodrum and Rodriguez still get starts elsewhere, including right field and third base this month for Goodrum.
As a means of filling regular infield spots, it's not the ideal scenario defensively, especially with infield shifts and differing assignments. As an investment in Gardenhire's hopes for bench versatility, however, it's a work in progress.
"Guys are trying," Gardenhire said. "We'll be better for it at the end when these guys learn all these different positions, and we move them around as best as we possibly can for the most part. [Jeimer Candelario is] getting better at third base, and [Goodrum] can play just about anywhere. Rodriguez has shown that he can move around a little bit. And Lugo's pretty good at second."
Ideally, it would pay off next season, when Cabrera will likely be splitting time between first base and DH and the Tigers will likely try to stick with a three-man bench in order to carry an extra reliever in the bullpen. John Hicks, who moved from backup catcher to platoon first baseman after Cabrera's season-ending biceps surgery, could prove valuable as a first-base fill-in and insurance policy. Goodrum, a pleasant surprise this season for the Tigers, could end up getting semi-regular playing time while rotating around positions.
Tigers don stars-and-stripes socks for Sept. 11
The Tigers were supposedly done with their stars-and-stripes socks once the July 4 holiday came and went. But as players readied for pregame ceremonies Tuesday remembering the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and honoring first responders, JaCoby Jones asked longtime clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel if they still had any of those socks around.
Catcher James McCann, who wasn't in Tuesday's lineup but caught the ceremonial first pitch, joined in. By game time, several Tigers had them on, including Goodrum, Rodriguez and outfielder Christin Stewart.
• Reliever Johnny Barbato was designated for assignment on Tuesday to make room for left-hander Matt Hall on the Tigers' 40-man roster. The 26-year-old, claimed off waivers from the Pirates last offseason, allowed nine runs on 11 hits over 6 2/3 innings in seven appearances, walking five batters and striking out two.
• Triple-A Toledo outfielder Jacob Robson, the Tigers' 17th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, will play winter ball this season with Estrellas in the Dominican League. Tigers officials opted for winter ball for Robson for regular playing time, rather than assigning him to the Arizona Fall League.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.