LF debut for Castro; Boyd rehabs; Hutchison

August 14th, 2021

DETROIT -- Willi Castro opened the Tigers’ season as their shortstop of the present and potentially future. He soon shifted over and has spent most of the summer as the team’s primary second baseman.

With that in mind, few would’ve imagined Castro in the Tigers’ lineup as their left fielder on a Saturday night in August.

It isn’t a full-time move for Castro, but it isn’t necessarily a one-time emergency move either.

“He’s a player we believe in,” manager A.J. Hinch said Saturday, “and so the more positions that we can put him at, the better. It does not close the book on second base and even shortstop. But the value of being able to put him anywhere -- I’ve been around a lot of players in my career that have thrived in that role and done it.

“There’s always been this curiosity. I’ve asked before, ‘Hey, have you ever considered him in the outfield?’ He’s flirted with that before. It may spark a huge skill set that can help our team and help him and make it an even more interesting team. If not, no harm’s done and we’ll get him back to second base primarily. I’m just not afraid of trying it, and I’m not afraid of trying it in games. Given the injuries we have and the roster construction that we have, it’s actually pretty exciting.”

Castro has been taking fly balls and doing pregame work in the outfield for the past week or two, at least to make it an option. Injuries to Derek Hill, Akil Baddoo and Niko Goodrum this week made it a more pressing matter. The only outfielder the Tigers have promoted amid all the injured list moves has been Jacob Robson. Daz Cameron could be back soon, but he continues a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo.

Castro downplays the adjustment, saying he played outfield when he was 11-12 years old. The one challenge might be keeping up with defensive alignments and positioning at what is a third position for him this season.

“It doesn’t really affect me,” Castro said. “Every year, there’s a lot of movement. There’s guys that are going to be playing maybe third base one day, maybe second base, outfield. Guys that play those kinds of positions, I think they have a better chance to play every day.”

Boyd feels good after rehab start

A day after Matthew Boyd tossed two innings in his first rehab start for Triple-A Toledo on the road at Columbus, the Tigers left-hander was back at Comerica Park on Saturday to get his between-starts work in.

He’s still a ways from returning to the mound in Detroit to pitch in a game, but he can see his return on the horizon.

“Patience is tough,” Boyd said. “It’s one thing that you can’t really will yourself to. You just have to give it time. Patience has been the toughest part of it, but [I'm] trusting in that plan that [head athletic trainer] Doug Teter and the team has laid out for me. But I’m excited for the time that I will be back.”

Boyd’s fastball sat in the low 90s Friday for the Mud Hens in his first real game action since June 14, when he was sidelined with left arm discomfort. He attacked one pitch at a time, to use his favorite phrase, throwing 14 of his 20 pitches for strikes. The short outing was by design in what is expected to be an incremental buildup to five-inning starts before he rejoins the Tigers around the end of August or start of September.

It’s longer than the initial hope that he might have returned after the All-Star break, but it’s a better than missing the rest of the season.

Hutchison to start Sunday

Drew Hutchison grew up in Lakeland, Fla., attending Tigers Spring Training games at Joker Marchant Stadium, then made his way to Tigertown this spring to begin a comeback attempt after injuries and the pandemic had seemingly halted his career. When he takes the mound at Comerica Park for the Tigers on Sunday against Cleveland, he’ll make his first big league appearance in nearly three years.

“I’m excited to be here,” Hutchison said Saturday. “It’s been an interesting ride so far, but I’ve had a good season this year and I’m excited to get going.”

Hutchison, who made his Major League debut with the Blue Jays as a 21-year-old starter in 2012, signed a Minor League contract with the Tigers in February. The 6-foot-3 right-hander pitched in independent ball last year after bouncing between three different Triple-A clubs in '19.

With injuries sapping the Tigers’ organizational pitching depth, Hutchison landed a spot in the rotation at Triple-A Toledo and excelled in it, posting an 8-3 record with a 3.63 ERA and 86 strikeouts over 84 1/3 innings. He hasn’t reinvented himself as a pitcher, he said, but found ways to get more movement and velocity to get closer to his younger form.

He’d been in the conversation as the Tigers’ next potential callup if they needed more pitching, but the decision to give Detroit’s young starters extra rest for the next few weeks made it an easy call for Hinch.