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The most pressing question facing Tigers

Teams must decide whether to buy or sell with Deadline approaching
MLB.com @beckjason

The American League Central has become a curious case study, with one or two teams expected to emerge from the pack but no one playing quite to form. With trade season picking up, the buzz in the division should soon take on a different shape.

The Royals sending Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals on Monday for prospects is expected to be the first step in a busy summer for them and the rest of the division. Now that the Draft is over, the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline becomes the top priority for many organizations, regardless of whether they're making a postseason push. For scouts, midsummer travel often becomes a barnstorming tour to watch potential trade targets or evaluate prospects in the Minors. For general managers, the meetings become debates, from the club's direction to potential targets from scouts and analytics.

The American League Central has become a curious case study, with one or two teams expected to emerge from the pack but no one playing quite to form. With trade season picking up, the buzz in the division should soon take on a different shape.

The Royals sending Kelvin Herrera to the Nationals on Monday for prospects is expected to be the first step in a busy summer for them and the rest of the division. Now that the Draft is over, the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline becomes the top priority for many organizations, regardless of whether they're making a postseason push. For scouts, midsummer travel often becomes a barnstorming tour to watch potential trade targets or evaluate prospects in the Minors. For general managers, the meetings become debates, from the club's direction to potential targets from scouts and analytics.

• Non-waiver Trade Deadline explained

One AL Central team, the Indians, clearly are in position to contend. The rest are either rebuilding, retinkering or rethinking. Here's a team-by-team look at the pressing questions for each club.

INDIANS
The question: Will Cleveland acquire bullpen help?

Things went off the rails for the Indians' bullpen in May, when the group turned in an 8.01 ERA that sent its relief corps toward the bottom of the AL rankings. While lefty Andrew Miller has dealt with injuries, manager Terry Francona has struggled to find consistency with his bullpen, making relief help an obvious need as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears.

Over the past two weeks, the Tribe has taken strides toward improving its 'pen. Core arms like Zach McAllister and Dan Otero have performed better, while the acquisition of veteran lefty Oliver Perez and emergence of Neil Ramirez have also helped shore things up. Miller's eventual return should continue the upward trend, but Cleveland could still greatly benefit from adding a lockdown relief arm for the stretch run.

Video: MIN@CLE: Perez strikes out Mauer looking in the 6th

ROYALS
The question: How many players will general manager Dayton Moore move before the Trade Deadline?

Moore has said repeatedly he won't trade players for the sake of trading them, but he also is committed to restocking Kansas City's farm system. Trading Herrera and Jon Jay has already landed the Royals several prospects, and Moore has other attractive assets in third baseman Mike Moustakas and super utility man Whit Merrifield. Moore is hesitant to move his best asset, All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, because he doesn't think he'd get the return they'd expect. But the Royals will likely entertain offers on anyone else, from Danny Duffy to Jason Hammel to Justin Grimm and so on.

Video: Moore, Yost talk Kelvin Herrera trade

TIGERS
The question: Will GM Al Avila trade young stars Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd and Nicholas Castellanos, or will they become part of Detroit's rebuilding process?

Don't let the second-place standing fool you. The Tigers are still committed to rebuilding around young talent, and they will trade veterans for prospects to restock their farm system. Veterans like Francisco Liriano, Mike Fiers, Leonys Martin and Jose Iglesias are no-doubt conversation starters, but the most popular targets will be younger players like Fulmer, Boyd and Castellanos, all still in their 20s with club control and emerging talent.

Castellanos is a year and a half away from free agency, but he has made it clear he'd like to stay in Detroit. Fulmer and Boyd aren't even in their arbitration years yet, let alone free agency. Avila said last weekend that he'll listen to any deal that makes his team better in the long haul, but he doesn't have a mandate to trade players. He'll deal anyone if the offer is right, but don't expect the Tigers to even consider trading Fulmer -- an All-Star with four more years of control -- without a premium return. Detroit's top prospects are all starting pitchers, so the Tigers will have arms to step up when the time comes.

Video: Tigers GM Al Avila on team's surprising start

TWINS
The question: Can Minnesota stay alive in the division race?

It's still too early to know if the Twins will be buyers or sellers at the Trade Deadline, as it appears their best path to the postseason is winning the division given how far out they are of the AL Wild Card race. If they're buyers, they'll be looking for relief help and possibly a catcher. But if Minnesota is a seller, it will have several players in the final years of their contracts who could be moved, including Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Lance Lynn, Zach Duke, Fernando Rodney and Logan Morrison. Last year, the Twins sold at the Deadline, but they ended up having an impressive August which led to the second AL Wild Card spot. So it shows how things can change in a hurry.

WHITE SOX
The question: Should they stay or should they go?

From July 13 to August 31 of last season, the White Sox traded nine players from their Major League roster and received 12 young players in return. General manager Rick Hahn already has acknowledged on numerous occasions the trade movement not expected to be as significant in 2018, with the rebuild focus falling more upon talent development, but there still could be some moves made.

James Shields has made 11 straight starts of at least six innings with a 4.13 ERA in that span, making him a possible back-end-of-the-rotation addition for a contender. Closer Joakim Soria entered play on Thursday with six saves and a .138 batting average against in June, while currently injured players, such as outfielders Avisail Garcia and Leury Garcia, reliever Nate Jones and starter Miguel Gonzalez, could draw some interest with a successful return when healthy.

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

Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals

Tigers, Royals to play game in Omaha in '19

Preceding College World Series, it'll be first MLB contest in Nebraska
MLB.com

OMAHA, Neb. -- Baseball has anchored the Omaha community for decades, playing host to the College World Series in June and housing the Triple-A Storm Chasers. And now, thanks to an initiative from Major League Baseball, the game is coming to the city at its highest level.

Representatives of Major League Baseball, the city of Omaha and others announced on Thursday afternoon that the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers will play a regular-season game at TD Ameritrade Park on June 13 next season. The game will be part of the new GEICO Summer Series, and it will be televised on ESPN.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Baseball has anchored the Omaha community for decades, playing host to the College World Series in June and housing the Triple-A Storm Chasers. And now, thanks to an initiative from Major League Baseball, the game is coming to the city at its highest level.

Representatives of Major League Baseball, the city of Omaha and others announced on Thursday afternoon that the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers will play a regular-season game at TD Ameritrade Park on June 13 next season. The game will be part of the new GEICO Summer Series, and it will be televised on ESPN.

Commissioner Rob Manfred was joined by Royals general manager Dayton Moore, Tigers general manager Al Avila and several Omaha officials to announce the historic event, a part of continuous efforts to spread and promote the game.

"Over the last four years, we've pursued two initiatives that are probably most important to us," Manfred said. "The first was to unite the various institutions that are involved in baseball, broadly defined under the umbrellas of Play Ball and One Baseball, and the second was to bring Major League Baseball to places where we don't play every day. This game continues to advance both of these initiatives."

In addition to overseas efforts in countries like Australia, Japan and Mexico, MLB has in recent years hosted contests in untapped domestic locations such as Williamsport, Pa., the site of the Little League World Series, and Fort Bragg, a military base in North Carolina.

It was just a matter of time before MLB's effort brought the game to the River City, which was at the top of the list of potential places to play.

"We identified the first year that I was Commissioner a number of potential sites, targets to play games that were not in our traditional ballparks," said Manfred, who became Commissioner before the 2015 season. "Omaha was on that list from the beginning. …Our desire to be here had been strong all along; it was just a question of finding the right opportunity."

Much of the pull to Omaha was due to TD Ameritrade Park, which opened in 2011 and is home to not just the College World Series but the Creighton Bluejays as well.

"This may be the best non-Major League facility in North America," Manfred said. "It's a great, great facility, and that does make the playing and execution here a little easier."

While the logistics of having two teams travel to a third-party city for just one day may be hectic behind the scenes, Moore believes the experience will not only be welcomed by the players involved but also highly anticipated, as it will offer clubs a change of pace from the traditional structure of a big league schedule.

"The players love to kind of break their routine a little bit, so it's going to be fun for them," Moore said. "They draw energy from the fans. As I said before, the environment was so important. This is an unbelievable environment. Our players, I think, will be re-energized to play in a venue like this, change it up a little bit."

MLB has already announced further plans to play overseas in Asia, Latin America and Europe over the next few seasons. While Manfred couldn't reveal exactly where, he said the league intends to play more games in Omaha and other domestic locations in the future.

"We're committed to the idea that events like these, where we don't ordinarily play, really dovetail nicely with our international efforts, in terms of trying to let people see the product up close and personal, and growing the game over the long haul," Manfred said.

Manfred stressed consistently that these efforts seek not to step on the toes of college baseball and other institutions, but rather to develop and advance the game at all levels. And if you ask anybody involved, there's no better place to do that than here, at the nucleus of it all, in Omaha.

"The College World Series, in and of itself, is a great event with a great tradition," Manfred said, "but we hope that by playing here, we'll be bringing even more attention to this game and help strengthen our relationship with the NCAA and college baseball as a whole."

Jordan Wolf is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.

Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals

Candelario breaks from slump with oppo HR

MLB.com @beckjason

CINCINNATI -- A day after the Tigers were beaten by the short home run at Great American Ball Park, they're hoping it can help Jeimer Candelario beat the hitting struggles that have plagued him for most of June.

The Tigers' young third baseman, nearly benched for Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Reds amidst a 4-for-36 slump, sent an opposite-field loft just over the left-field fence for a first-inning solo homer. It was a lone tally at a place where runs can pile up in a hurry, but it was big for Candelario. The homer was estimated at 359 feet, and it left his bat at a 28 degree launch angle and with an exit velocity of 93.3 mph, according to Statcast™.

View Full Game Coverage

CINCINNATI -- A day after the Tigers were beaten by the short home run at Great American Ball Park, they're hoping it can help Jeimer Candelario beat the hitting struggles that have plagued him for most of June.

The Tigers' young third baseman, nearly benched for Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Reds amidst a 4-for-36 slump, sent an opposite-field loft just over the left-field fence for a first-inning solo homer. It was a lone tally at a place where runs can pile up in a hurry, but it was big for Candelario. The homer was estimated at 359 feet, and it left his bat at a 28 degree launch angle and with an exit velocity of 93.3 mph, according to Statcast™.

View Full Game Coverage

"He's a good hitter," manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game. "I think young hitters sometimes press too much, maybe get a little passive."

The 24-year-old Candelario, part of the return the Tigers received from the Cubs in the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila trade last July, entered June as a sneaky candidate to represent Detroit on the All-Star roster, batting .275 with eight homers, 22 RBIs and an .894 OPS in 44 games. A .167 average in June, with 24 strikeouts and 10 hits, has cooled off that talk and left the Tigers focused on just getting the young hitter going again.

Candelario would've sat Wednesday, Gardenhire said, but he needed to give a day off to John Hicks, the backup catcher who became Detroit's everyday first baseman once Miguel Cabrera suffered a season-ending biceps tendon tear last week.

Candelario had gone 10 days without an extra-base hit when he jumped on Tyler Mahle's first-pitch fastball, sending it to the opposite field. Statcast™ gave it a 21 percent hit probability, and it likely would've barely reached the warning track at Comerica Park. But on a hot and humid afternoon in smaller confines, the ball carried enough to find the left-field seats for Candelario's 11th home run of the year.

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

Detroit Tigers, Jeimer Candelario

Tigers sunk again by long ball in finale vs. Reds

Candelario, Goodrum homer for Detroit in loss
MLB.com @beckjason

CINCINNATI -- The Great American Ball Park homer bug bit the Tigers again.

"[Michael] Fulmer was unbelievable," manager Ron Gardenhire said after Wednesday afternoon's 5-3 loss to the Reds completed a two-game series sweep. "He makes the pitch, our catcher is going to block it, and the guy hits it out. And that's part of this ballpark. It flies here."

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CINCINNATI -- The Great American Ball Park homer bug bit the Tigers again.

"[Michael] Fulmer was unbelievable," manager Ron Gardenhire said after Wednesday afternoon's 5-3 loss to the Reds completed a two-game series sweep. "He makes the pitch, our catcher is going to block it, and the guy hits it out. And that's part of this ballpark. It flies here."

View Full Game Coverage

The way Fulmer has been pitching, he can deal with Scooter Gennett's game-tying two-run home run, and the Eugenio Suarez go-ahead solo shot on the next pitch. If Fulmer keeps pitching like this, he expects games will turn his way.

"Honestly, the best way to put it is that I'm mad at the results, but I'm not mad at the way I pitched," Fulmer said. "I feel like I'm so close to being back to where I want to be."

Video: DET@CIN: Tigers turn strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out DP

Fulmer has allowed multiple homers in four games this season. The previous three times, he was rocked for more runs than innings pitched and was chased early each time. This time, Fulmer was one strike away from six shutout innings and a third consecutive outing with one run or less.

Fulmer has struck out 20 batters over 19 2/3 innings in his past three outings and allowed 15 hits. He has one win for his trouble, but he has reason to believe he's back to his American League Rookie of the Year Award-winning form. Fulmer is arguably better now, because he's throwing harder. His offseason strengthening program has added some velocity on his fastball.

Fulmer (3-6) fell to the same fate that hours earlier doomed Matthew Boyd, who yielded a short-porch grand slam on Tuesday night. Unlike Boyd, the big right-hander carried his dominance deeper into the game, holding the Reds to one hit, one walk and one hit batter through five innings while striking out eight of his first 18 batters.

Fulmer headed into his third trip through Cincinnati's order with his fastball sitting at 97-98 mph, complemented by a biting slider. The third trip, however, has been troublesome for him most of the year, with his OPS allowed jumping from .617 to .895.

"Today, I thought the stuff was a lot better," Fulmer said. "My slider was sharp, especially later in the game. Usually, it kind of flattens out. That's why I've had rough sixth and seventh innings. But today, I felt the slider was sharp."

That stuff is why Gardenhire never pondered pinch-hitting for Fulmer with the bases loaded in the previous half-inning.

"We're expecting nine innings out of him at that point," Gardenhire said. "That's his ballgame. That's completely his ballgame. That's who he is. He's our ace, and we expect him to keep going."

A double from leadoff batter Scott Schebler put the Reds' rally in motion in the sixth, but Fulmer recovered with a Tucker Barnhart flyout -- the first time Detroit retired the Cincinnati catcher this series -- and a Joey Votto strikeout on a slider down and in. Back-to-back sliders put Fulmer ahead on Gennett and a pitch away from escape, but he couldn't get a two-strike fastball past Gennett, who fouled off two at 98 mph, and took a third.

"He fouled off a couple great fastballs up at his chin, which is hard to do," Fulmer said. "I finally had to go back to the slider."

Fulmer went to the slider down and in, and he tried to bury it. Gennett lifted it an estimated 397 feet per Statcast™, into the right-field seats.

"I thought it was going to bounce," Fulmer said. "[Catcher James] McCann was getting ready to block it. [Gennett] just dropped the barrel on it. That's just good hitting by him. I thought it was the correct pitch."

Said McCann: "You just kind of have to tip your cap and move on when you get beat like that."

Fulmer went back to the slider on his next pitch. Former Tiger Suarez jumped it for a go-ahead solo homer. An ensuing walk to Jesse Winker ended Fulmer's afternoon with 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball; his nine strikeouts tied a season high.

"It was a good ballgame," Gardenhire said, "just frustrating, because our starter threw so damn well."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Candelario breaks out of slump: Jeimer Candelario was mired in a 4-for-36 skid and nearly had Wednesday's game off. Gardenhire instead rested first baseman John Hicks and gave another start to Candelario, who opened the scoring with an opposite-field home run off Reds starter Tyler Mahle to the left-field seats.

Video: DET@CIN: Candelario belts solo HR to open the scoring

"I've been working hard," Candelario said. "That's my philosophy: You're going to have some ups and downs, but you just have to continue working hard and everything's going to take care of itself. I just trust myself, and I know everything is going to be fine."

SOUND SMART
Blaine Hardy, who has been part of the Tigers' rotation for the past month, made a spot appearance out of the bullpen Wednesday, allowing two hits over a third of an inning. He was the first left-hander Detroit has used in relief since Daniel Stumpf pitched May 28 before his DL stint with ulnar nerve irritation.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Tigers created an eighth-inning rally without a ball hit out of the infield, thanks largely to the speed of JaCoby Jones. He singled on a bouncer to the third-base side of the mound, stole second, then took off on Jose Iglesias' chopper in front of home plate. When Barnhart fired to first base, Jones sped around third and scored without a play at the plate.

Video: DET@CIN: Iglesias hustles down line for an RBI single

HE SAID IT
"How crazy is it that somebody would want me to pinch-hit for [Fulmer] there? I'm looking at a nine-inning game. That's two different mindsets. Whoever's thinking that maybe should get their own team, and they can pull their guy out there. Then as soon as the next guy goes in and gives it up, then I would rip him, saying, 'Why in the hell would you do that?'" -- Gardenhire, on Fulmer batting in the sixth inning

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Suarez's home run was initially ruled a double off the top of the left-field wall, but a replay review determined that the ball actually cleared the wall and struck the railing beyond it.

Video: DET@CIN: Suarez's double overturned to solo home run

UP NEXT
The Tigers have their second off-day this week before opening an AL Central clash with the division-leading Indians in Cleveland with a 7:10 p.m. ET game Friday at Progressive Field. Mike Fiers (5-3, 4.09 ERA), who has held the Tribe to two runs over 13 innings in two meetings this year, will try to continue the trend opposite Indians rookie right-hander Shane Bieber (1-0, 3.97).

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

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer

VerHagen heads to DL; Tigers recall Barbato

MLB.com @beckjason

CINCINNATI -- Johnny Barbato was in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Tuesday night, pitching an inning out of the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens' bullpen in a victory over Gwinnett. A few hours later, he was on his way to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for a 7:30 a.m. ET flight to Cincinnati and a 12:35 p.m. game out of the Tigers' bullpen.

Such is life for a reliever on the shuttle between Triple-A and the Majors, something the Tigers have had to do a lot amidst their pitching injuries. It's an easy hour's drive when Toledo and Detroit are playing at home; a Toledo-Cincinnati trip wouldn't have been long either. When both teams are on the road, however, it becomes an adventure.

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CINCINNATI -- Johnny Barbato was in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Tuesday night, pitching an inning out of the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens' bullpen in a victory over Gwinnett. A few hours later, he was on his way to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for a 7:30 a.m. ET flight to Cincinnati and a 12:35 p.m. game out of the Tigers' bullpen.

Such is life for a reliever on the shuttle between Triple-A and the Majors, something the Tigers have had to do a lot amidst their pitching injuries. It's an easy hour's drive when Toledo and Detroit are playing at home; a Toledo-Cincinnati trip wouldn't have been long either. When both teams are on the road, however, it becomes an adventure.

View Full Game Coverage

"It's just another day," Barbato said. "It is what it is. You learn to roll."

Barbato's return was the other end of Drew VerHagen's move to the 10-day disabled list with a broken nose suffered on a throw that hit him in the face covering first base Tuesday night. VerHagen was scheduled to see a doctor Wednesday afternoon to see if his sinus cavity remains in place, according to manager Ron Gardenhire.

VerHagen was going to miss at least four or five days regardless, Gardenhire said. Add in the fact that Warwick Saupold and Buck Farmer each threw 40-plus pitches in relief of Matthew Boyd on Tuesday night, and the move for a fresh arm was relatively simple.

Barbato pitched in five games for the Tigers earlier this season, allowing three runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings with three walks and two strikeouts. Detroit optioned him to Toledo in mid-May with instructions to work on throwing strikes more consistently. He has thrown 14 innings since his last walk May 12, and he tossed 13 scoreless innings on three hits before Xavier Avery homered off of him Tuesday night.

The Tigers will likely have the shuttle working again this weekend. Though Detroit hasn't announced a starting pitcher for Saturday's game in Cleveland, Francisco Liriano is expected to return from the DL to make that start, which will require another roster move.

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

Detroit Tigers, Johnny Barbato, Drew VerHagen

Reds' walks, grand slam prove costly for Boyd

MLB.com @beckjason

CINCINNATI -- A hot, humid night with the ball carrying in a hitter-friendly ballpark was never going to be a good matchup for Matthew Boyd. A 329-foot home run by Joey Votto just over the right-field fence, off Nicholas Castellanos' outstretched glove, was Boyd's demise.

Boyd can live with that. It's part of the game at Great American Ball Park. The baserunners he put on ahead of Votto's drive to make it a grand slam were what doomed him in the wake of the Tigers' 9-5 loss to the Reds.

View Full Game Coverage

CINCINNATI -- A hot, humid night with the ball carrying in a hitter-friendly ballpark was never going to be a good matchup for Matthew Boyd. A 329-foot home run by Joey Votto just over the right-field fence, off Nicholas Castellanos' outstretched glove, was Boyd's demise.

Boyd can live with that. It's part of the game at Great American Ball Park. The baserunners he put on ahead of Votto's drive to make it a grand slam were what doomed him in the wake of the Tigers' 9-5 loss to the Reds.

View Full Game Coverage

As the old Riverfront Stadium scoreboard graphic used to say, "Walks will haunt."

"Walks kill you," Boyd said. "Fly balls, home runs like that in this park are gonna happen, especially when the wind's blowing out. You expect that sort of stuff to happen, but it's the walks you have control over."

The loss ended the Tigers' five-game winning streak, as well as their quest to reach the .500 mark for the first time since April 9.

Boyd's surprisingly strong start to the season has caught the attention of potential buyers ahead of next month's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Though Tuesday's outing didn't attract a slew of scouts, the matchup of the fly-ball pitcher with a short outfield fence and summer weather was bound to attract attention.

Boyd (4-5) appeared up to the task early, striking out four Reds over the first two innings as hitters chased his slider. Three of those strikeouts, however, came after he fell behind in the count, including a 3-0 count to Adam Duvall after a leadoff single in the second.

"He was throwing pitches where he wanted them," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They weren't swinging."

Trouble was lurking, and Boyd sensed it. A leadoff walk to nine-hole batter and Reds speedster Billy Hamilton in the third inning set the rally in motion.

"You never want to walk a guy like that," Boyd said. "He can turn a single into a double really fast. Ideally, make them earn it."

Boyd walked Hamilton and Tucker Barnhart, the latter from an 0-2 count after two missed bunt attempts, with a Jose Peraza single in between. That loaded the bases for Votto, who hadn't homered since May 13 but whose reputation as one of baseball's toughest at-bats is still well-earned.

Boyd fell behind again but threw a 2-1 curveball down in the zone that Votto golfed toward the right-field fence.

Video: DET@CIN: Votto hits grand slam off Castellanos' glove

"I wanted to let the barrel move a little bit," Boyd said. "When it's off the bat, you don't really think about what's going to happen. I just thought I did what I wanted to on the [pitch]."

Statcast™ gave the ball a one-percent hit probability thanks to a 43-degree launch angle and 93.8-mph exit velocity. Only Justin Verlander entered play Tuesday having induced more balls in play at a 40-plus-degree launch angle than Boyd, who had allowed one hit on 56 such balls this season.

This one carried in a park where it didn't have to carry far. Castellanos made a leaping attempt at it but couldn't get enough of a grasp to keep it in, the ball hitting off his glove instead.

"We play in the biggest ballpark in the league," Castellanos said, referring to Comerica Park. "It is what it is."

It was the first grand slam off Boyd in his Major League career.

Barnhart's RBI double in the fourth completed the damage against Boyd, whose four innings tied his shortest outing of the season. Meanwhile, Reds starter Sal Romano (4-7) scattered baserunners but avoided the big hit over seven scoreless innings for his first win since May 30.

Video: DET@CIN: Martin smacks a 2-run double to left-center

JaCoby Jones' pinch-hit, bases-loaded walk and Leonys Martin's two-run double ignited a five-run Detroit ninth to avoid a shutout.

SOUND SMART
Votto's home run was the 59th homer off Boyd in his Major League career but just the 11th from a left-handed batter and the second this year. Boyd's last two home runs allowed, however, have come from lefty hitters, the first to Andrew Benintendi on a solo shot at Fenway Park on June 7.

UP NEXT
Michael Fulmer (3-5, 4.13 ERA) plans to have at least three jerseys ready to sweat through on a hot Wednesday afternoon as the Tigers wrap up their series with the Reds in a 12:35 p.m. ET game at Great American Ball Park. Fulmer has tossed seven innings of one-run ball in each of his last two outings, pounding the strike zone with sinkers. Tyler Mahle (5-6, 3.96) will start for the Reds.

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

Detroit Tigers

Slider from Boyd made Votto weak in the knees

It takes a lot to challenge Joey Votto. But it appeared Matthew Boyd had the right stuff to do such a thing.

Faedo spins gem in Double-A debut

MLB.com @wboor

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday.

Matt Thaiss and Taylor Ward each put together huge offensive performances to lead Triple-A Salt Lake to a 17-9 win over Colorado Springs.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday.

Matt Thaiss and Taylor Ward each put together huge offensive performances to lead Triple-A Salt Lake to a 17-9 win over Colorado Springs.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

The duo combined for nine hits, three homers and four RBIs in the Bees' offensive explosion. Most notably, Thaiss set a career high with five hits and Ward turned in the second two-homer game of his career.

Thaiss, the Angels' No. 8 prospect, hit a solo homer in the second and also added a double as he finished 5-for-7 and boosted his average to .340 through 23 games with the Bees. The big performance was also the second in as many days for Thaiss, who went 2-for-5 with a grand slam on Monday.

Ward, the Angels' No. 13 prospect, had a perfect night at the plate, going 4-for-4 with a pair of walks and four runs scored. The catcher hit a solo homer in the third and then added a two-run blast in the fourth. He also added a double and is hitting .328 in the 14 games since he was promoted from Double-A Mobile.

Watch: Thaiss' solo homer

Other top prospect performances from Tuesday's action:

No. 51 overall prospect Alex Faedo (Tigers' No. 3) certainly appeared ready for the advanced competition as he made his debut with Double-A Erie. Faedo, who posted a 3.10 ERA through 12 starts with Class A Advanced Lakeland, matched his season high with seven strikeouts as he threw 55 of his 83 pitches for strikes across six innings. The right-hander also walked two and gave up two runs on two hits.

• No. 76 overall prospect Adonis Medina (Phillies' No. 2) set a season high with 10 strikeouts as he cruised through six innings of one-run ball for Class A Advanced Clearwater. Medina, who has given up one earned run or fewer in four of his past five starts, threw 64 of his 95 pitches for strikes in the outing.

• No. 79 overall prospect Carter Kieboom (Nationals' No. 3) put together a memorable performance in the Carolina League All-Star Game. Kieboom, who has homered 11 times in 61 games with Class A Advanced Potomac this season, went deep in the exhibition, one of his three hits on the night.

Watch: Kieboom drills solo shot

Blue Jays No. 8 prospect Ryan Borucki spun his first complete game of the season as he led Triple-A Buffalo to a win over Pawtucket. Borucki, who threw 62 of his 93 pitches for strikes, gave up three hits and walked one over seven scoreless innings. The lefty also notched four strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 3.27 with his fourth scoreless start of the year.

Borucki notches a strikeout

• Blue Jays No. 9 prospect T.J. Zeuch has been lights out for Double-A New Hampshire lately and that trend continued once again. Zeuch was stuck with a no-decision after giving up a pair of unearned runs over seven innings. The 22-year-old struck out seven and has given up two earned runs or fewer in each of his past six starts.

• Phillies No. 9 prospect Ranger Suarez picked up his third win of the season as he fired a complete game for Double-A Reading. Suarez, 22, gave up one run over seven innings and lowered his ERA to 3.04 -- the lowest it's been all season. The left-hander also walked two and struck out five in the outing.

Mariners No. 2 prospect Evan White put forth a strong showing in the California League All-Star Game. White helped lift the North to a win over the South as he went 2-for-4 with a trio of RBIs. White's highlight came in the third inning as he blasted a two-run homer to help the North break the game open.

Pirates No. 18 prospect Clay Holmes' run of dominance continued as he picked up his fourth straight win for Triple-A Indianapolis. Holmes, who has given up one earned run or less in each of those starts, surrendered one run over a season high 7 1/3 innings. The right-hander didn't issue a walk for the third time this season and also matched his season high with eight strikeouts. Holmes gave up five hits and threw 67 of his 100 pitches for strikes.

Holmes notches eighth strikeout

Royals No. 2 prospect Nick Pratto made the most of his All-Star experience, helping the South top the North in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Pratto, who was named the game's MVP, hit a two-run homer in the fifth and finished with a game-high four RBIs on a 2-for-5 night.

Twins No. 13 prospect Travis Blankenhorn stuffed the box score in Class A Fort Myers' win over Tampa. The third baseman put together his seventh three-hit game of the season, going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles. Blankenhorn also drove in two, scored twice and picked up his fifth stolen base of the season.

Yankees No. 5 prospect Luis Medina put up nothing but zeros in his 2018 debut with Rookie-level Pulaski. Medina didn't yield a hit over his four scoreless frames, but the outing wasn't quite as smooth as that line would dictate. The 19-year-old gave up one unearned run, struck out four and issued five walks and he threw 43 of his 78 pitches for strikes.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Liriano close to return from DL

Faedo debuts at Double-A Erie; Tigers sign six more Draft picks
MLB.com @beckjason

CINCINNATI -- The Tigers' six-man rotation plan is in place -- sort of.

Francisco Liriano is back with the team after his rehab start Sunday night for Triple-A Toledo, and is on track to return from the disabled list and start for the Tigers over the weekend in Cleveland. It'll be his first start since May 26, having missed the last few weeks with a right hamstring strain. Manager Ron Gardenhire is not saying yet which game in Cleveland he'll start.

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CINCINNATI -- The Tigers' six-man rotation plan is in place -- sort of.

Francisco Liriano is back with the team after his rehab start Sunday night for Triple-A Toledo, and is on track to return from the disabled list and start for the Tigers over the weekend in Cleveland. It'll be his first start since May 26, having missed the last few weeks with a right hamstring strain. Manager Ron Gardenhire is not saying yet which game in Cleveland he'll start.

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Blaine Hardy, who has fared well as a starter while filling in for the injured Liriano and Jordan Zimmermann, remains in the rotation mix as well. But he will not necessarily be making regular turns between now and the All-Star break.

"He'll be slotted somewhere back in there, too," Gardenhire said, "but he might be in the bullpen for a little bit eventually."

In other words, it'll be a six-man rotation for some turns, but maybe not for others.

"Well, it's six, five, six, five, five, six, whatever," Gardenhire said. "We have it all worked out, I'm telling you."

One factor is the schedule. The Tigers came off an off-day Monday, then have another on Thursday. Then they play on 20 consecutive days in five different cities before their next off-day, then play three games in Houston, followed by the All-Star break.

Another factor is the lack of a left-hander in the Tigers bullpen, something they've survived recently but would rather remedy soon. Daniel Stumpf, out since May 29 with ulnar nerve irritation in his left elbow, began a rehab assignment with Toledo on Tuesday, but will make at least two appearances before he's cleared to return.

Liriano threw four innings for the Mud Hens on Sunday, allowing eight runs on 11 hits while striking out seven and hitting a couple batters. Most important from the Tigers' standpoint, he threw 83 pitches, stretching him out enough to get to his regular pitch count in a start.

Liriano threw six innings of two-run ball in Cleveland on April 9, taking a 2-0 loss, then gave up five runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Tribe at Comerica Park last month.

Faedo makes Double-A debut
Two days after hinting that Alex Faedo could soon be promoted to Double-A Erie, Tigers general manager Al Avila was in Erie on Tuesday night to watch the former first-round pick make his debut for the SeaWolves. Faedo gave up two runs on two hits in six innings on the night, walking two and striking out seven.

Faedo and outfielder Daz Cameron, the Tigers' third- and ninth-ranked prospects by MLB Pipeline, respectively, were promoted from Class A Lakeland to Erie on Monday. Both moves were expected at some point this summer, though an up-and-down start with Lakeland raised some intrigue about Faedo.

Faedo went 2-4 with a 3.10 ERA in 12 starts for the Flying Tigers, yielding 49 hits over 61 innings with 13 walks and 51 strikeouts. His last five starts there stood out, with four earned runs on 16 hits over 24 1/3 innings with seven walks and 22 strikeouts. He had not been throwing as hard for most of that stretch as he was before being drafted last year out of the University of Florida, but Avila downplayed any concerns.

"It's not [a concern], because he's pitching very well," Avila said Sunday. "The way he's pitching is very similar to how he was pitching in college, except that the velocity is not there right now. But I think if you look at the history, there's a lot of pitchers whose velocities have fluctuated throughout their Minor League careers. And even at the Major League level, you see velocities fluctuate, and eventually it comes back. At his age right now, he's perfectly healthy. I think it's just a matter of time."

Tigers sign more Draft picks
The Tigers signed sixth-round Draft pick Hugh Smith and eighth-rounder Jeremiah Burks over the weekend. Smith, a 6-foot-10 right-hander out of Whitworth University, received a $300,000 bonus, just above the slot value of $297,800, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Burks, a shortstop from Fresno State, received full slot value of $182,900.

Also signed were Texas State shortstop Luke Sherley (14th-round pick), Texas-San Antonio right-hander Chance Kirby (25th round), Michigan righty Jayce Vancena (31st round) and Sacramento State left fielder Vinny Esposito (34th round). The Tigers have agreed to terms with 27 of their 40 picks thus far.

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

Detroit Tigers, Francisco Liriano

Castellanos in mix in latest AL All-Star update

Tigers star ranks 11th among outfielders; Cabrera 5th among first basemen
MLB.com @beckjason

CINCINNATI -- Nicholas Castellanos has picked up some newfound fame for his podcast with teammate Shane Greene, but he'll need a lot more attention than that to gain ground in the hotly contested All-Star balloting for American League outfielders.

VOTE: 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot

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CINCINNATI -- Nicholas Castellanos has picked up some newfound fame for his podcast with teammate Shane Greene, but he'll need a lot more attention than that to gain ground in the hotly contested All-Star balloting for American League outfielders.

VOTE: 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot

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The latest voting totals, released Tuesday, show Castellanos 11th among AL outfielders with 256,889 votes. By comparison, the top three outfielders in balloting -- Mookie Betts, Mike Trout and Aaron Judge -- all have more than a million votes.

Miguel Cabrera is the only other Tiger with enough votes at his respective position to be listed on the voting update. He's fifth among first basemen, a spot he'll likely relinquish soon now that he's out for the season with a torn biceps tendon. That leaves Castellanos as the Tigers' best All-Star hope among position players, though not a likely one.

Castellanos entered play Tuesday ranked fifth among AL outfielders with 144 total bases, sixth with a .310 batting average, 11th with a .365 wOBA and 11th with an .855 OPS. He has been the centerpiece of the Tigers' offense, even when Cabrera was healthy.

Video: DET@MIN: Castellanos launches a solo homer to center

Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot until Thursday, July 5, at 11:59 p.m. ET. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB At Bat and MLB Ballpark mobile apps. Each fan can vote up to five times in any 24-hour period, for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.

The Tigers are encouraging their fans to vote through social media and incentives. Fans who #VoteTigers and follow @tigers on Twitter and Instagram will be eligible to win prizes, including game tickets, autographed memorabilia and game experiences. Fans who submit five online ballots that include the Tigers as their favorite club will be eligible for $10 off outfield box seats for select games in June, July and August.

Following the announcement of this year's All-Star starters, reserves and pitchers, fans should return to MLB.com and cast their 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Final Vote for the final player on each league's roster. Then on Tuesday, July 17, while watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, fans may visit MLB.com to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2018 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.

The 89th Midsummer Classic, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, please visit AllStarGame.com and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.

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

Detroit Tigers, Nicholas Castellanos

Inbox: Can Tigers stay in title race?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers fan questions
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Sorting through the inbox at a coffee shop on the road from Detroit to Cincinnati:

DETROIT -- Sorting through the inbox at a coffee shop on the road from Detroit to Cincinnati:

The Tigers have a chance to hang in the Indians' rear-view mirror. The problem will be what happens next month, as the Trade Deadline approaches and the goals of Detroit and Cleveland split off. The Indians' window to contend is now -- not just for the division, but the World Series, and one would expect them to make the deals they need to improve for the stretch run. Detroit's window is in the future, and general manager Al Avila made it clear Sunday that the club's surprising performance of late isn't going to change that.

Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox

If the right offer comes along that makes the Tigers better in the long run, they'll trade away key parts at the Deadline, whether they're close in the race or not. If not, they'll stand pat. They will not trade prospects to get veteran players and make a run at the division.

Yes, as my MLB.com colleague Jon Morosi wrote Monday, there's trade interest building in Matthew Boyd, who has quietly become one of the American League's pitching surprises this year. He's having a breakout season at an age (27) when pitchers tend to figure things out about their game. Boyd is a cost-controlled pitcher who hasn't hit arbitration eligibility yet, though that could happen this coming offseason depending on the Super Two cutoff. He has four more seasons before free agency. Plus, Boyd is versatile enough that he can slot into a team's bullpen depending on the need.

That doesn't mean the Tigers will deal him at next month's Trade Deadline. But if they're willing to listen to interest in Michael Fulmer, they'll listen to interest in Boyd. Remember, if you count top pick Casey Mize, Detroit's top five prospects according to MLB Pipeline are starting pitchers, so this is an area of long-term depth.

Though the Tigers made a big prospect shift Monday by promoting right-hander Alex Faedo (Detroit's No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline) and center field Daz Cameron (No. 9) from Class A Advanced Lakeland to Double-A Erie, that doesn't necessarily make a promotion imminent for right-hander Beau Burrows (No. 4) and Christin Stewart (No. 10). While I think Burrows will pitch at Triple-A Toledo sometime this summer, I think it's more likely the Tigers will wait a little while longer, maybe until top prospect Franklin Perez returns from his lat injury. That said, Avila was in Erie on Monday to see Burrows pitch against a pretty good lineup for New Hampshire, the Blue Jays' Double-A affiliate.

Stewart is on a different timetable, and Avila gave every indication Sunday the club was going to remain patient with him. He's more likely to be a late-season callup at this point, giving him more time to work in left field.

Daniel Norris is currently on a throwing progression in Lakeland, Fla., according to manager Ron Gardenhire. He still has a while to go before he pitches in games, and he'll surely make a Minor League rehab assignment when he does. The important thing for the Tigers now is to get Norris healthy and keep him healthy, giving him a chance to focus on pitching when he does come back.

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

Detroit Tigers

Hardy digs in as Tigers complete sweep of Sox

Lefty tosses 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in another strong bid to stay in rotation
MLB.com @beckjason

CHICAGO -- Blaine Hardy isn't giving up his rotation spot easily, and he might not have to. The Tigers, meanwhile, continue to hold their spot in the Indians' rear-view mirror.

The last time the Tigers were at .500, they were 4-4 after sweeping the White Sox in Chicago on the first weekend of April. They came close a couple other times that month before falling back. As they left Chicago again Sunday, having finished off another three-game sweep of the Sox with a 3-1 win, they're back within a game, at 36-37.

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CHICAGO -- Blaine Hardy isn't giving up his rotation spot easily, and he might not have to. The Tigers, meanwhile, continue to hold their spot in the Indians' rear-view mirror.

The last time the Tigers were at .500, they were 4-4 after sweeping the White Sox in Chicago on the first weekend of April. They came close a couple other times that month before falling back. As they left Chicago again Sunday, having finished off another three-game sweep of the Sox with a 3-1 win, they're back within a game, at 36-37.

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With a five-game winning streak, they're threatening the break-even mark at a point later than last year's team last stood with its head above water. Detroit's current record is four games better than the veteran-laden 2017 club had through 73 games, and the Tigers remain within 2 1/2 games of Cleveland in the American League Central.

Tweet from @tigers: 5��� straight wins! pic.twitter.com/FxTFyzgqnx

Whether or not they're considered competitive for the two-time AL Central champions, they're competing in general. Unburdened by expectations, they continue to beat teams they're expected to beat, and they take games from contending clubs. They're taking what was a surprising start and stretching it beyond that.

"Any team wants to be over .500. It's kind of that mark that lets you know you're playing good baseball," said Hardy, whose 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball continued his surprising stretch in the Tigers' rotation. "When we're within 2 1/2 games of the Indians at this point, that's a good sign, especially since we go [to Cleveland for three games next weekend]. We can go in there and say we have full control over what the standings will be.

"It's huge, especially in the circumstances that we have right now. We need to try to make a push, and I think we're doing a good job of it."

GM Avila encouraged by start, won't alter long-range plans

Hardy (3-1) might best represent the Tigers' season to date. After being designated for assignment in Spring Training and left unclaimed, brought back on the roster in May, then bumped into the rotation late last month by necessity, his pitching has forced the Tigers to continue keeping him in the role. He owns a 3.40 ERA while filling in for the injured Francisco Liriano in the rotation, and has allowed two runs or fewer in six of seven starts. He missed out on a quality start by two outs Sunday, and might have gotten there if not for the heat wave that enveloped Chicago.

With a game-time temperature of 92 degrees, Hardy did his best to keep Detroit's position players from wilting in the heat, delivering pitches quickly and innings efficiently. Matt Davidson's second-inning home run was the lefty's only scoring damage. Hardy retired eight in a row from the third inning until Kevan Smith's infield single chased him with one out in the sixth.

"I'm not trying to say I was trying to speed up to get back inside for the cool-off period," Hardy said, "but there were definitely times when I was like, 'Here you go. Hit it.'"

Leonys Martin returned the favor with a highlight catch, crashing into the center-field fence to rob Tim Anderson in the fifth.

"He throws a lot of strikes, man," Martin said. "That's all you have to do, throw strikes. You throw a lot of strikes and force the hitters to swing the bat. And then we're always aware of what's going on. That's good."

Liriano is expected back next weekend, but Hardy has pitched well enough that Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday morning that the Tigers are working on a potential six-man rotation to carry them through the All-Star break. Even as the bullpen toils without a lefty reliever, Hardy's performance as a starter has forced Detroit's staff to think creatively and give pitchers extra rest.

"We've been really thinking this thing through," Gardenhire said.

Hardy pitched with a lead from the moment he took the mound thanks to Nicholas Castellanos, who homered for the third time in two days and the ninth time this season. His drive to left field made White Sox starter James Shields (2-8) pay for a first-inning walk to Jeimer Candelario. Niko Goodrum doubled and scored on a