Niko Goodrum has filled in holes for Detroit, both defensively and offensively, and is making it harder for Tigers manager A.J. Hinch to leave him out of the lineup.
Regardless of whether Goodrum is in the starting lineup, he’s making sure that his skipper notices the work that he’s putting in to be a player whom the Tigers can call upon in any situation.
"Niko's earned some playing time by the few adjustments that he's made,” Hinch said. “I pay attention to what he does on the days he doesn't play. He's a threat hitting left-handed every single time. His selection has gotten a little bit better.”
Goodrum's slash line of .286/.355/.429 is making a case for him to see more time at shortstop in place of Willi Castro, who was 3-for-21 in his last five games entering Friday. Though Goodrum’s splits are rather skewed -- .444 batting average against lefties and .211 batting against righties -- Hinch still wants the switch-hitting 29-year-old in the lineup.
"His every four at-bats -- especially hitting against right-handed pitching -- I know gets a lot of attention, but what he can do on the field has impacted games," Hinch said. "When you have a night like last night, you earn playing time and you earn opportunities."
Goodrum has already played three positions this season, logging 69 defensive innings with a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000 in eight games. His versatility in the field and readiness to make adjustments outweigh any weaknesses at the plate.
“There's a lot of focus on what he can't do in terms of where he swings and misses, and that's a little unfair to him,” Hinch said. “I think he can impact the game on defense. I think the game he played at shortstop the other day was arguably the turning point of the game."
Games like Wednesday are in store for Goodrum, as he moves up and down the lineup against different matchups to keep his glove on the field.
Turnbull nearing return
Spencer Turnbull made three Spring Training appearances before he was placed on the 10-day injured list due to COVID-19 protocols in late March.
After missing the first couple weeks of the regular season, the right-hander is nearing his return to the rotation after pitching in an alternate site game nearly a month later.
"The early reports were that he ramped pretty well into his outing; he started it out with a tick less velocity than normal,” Hinch said. “As the outing went a little bit deeper, he threw a little bit harder. He had some inconsistency with his breaking ball, but all in all, felt really good and it felt like he threw the ball well.”
Turnbull gave up two runs on two walks and five hits with two strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings at Toledo on Thursday. His outing made the next steps clearer in his return, which could come as soon as next week.
“We had a conference call with him today,” Hinch said. “We went over a few different things and a few different timeline ideas and there's a definite chance that he would rejoin the rotation sometime in the Pittsburgh series.
“We haven't finalized that completely yet, but that is a safe possibility. We'll see how he recovers and how the bullpen goes. We'll talk to him about how he's recovering, and see if that's the best situation for him and ultimately the best situation for us."
Right-hander Rony García was reinstated from the injured list Friday and optioned to Double-A Erie. García underwent an appendectomy near the start of Spring Training, forcing him out of play for all of spring and the first couple weeks of the regular season.
García was selected as the first overall pick by Detroit in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. He made his Major League debut last year as a starter against the Royals, where he allowed three runs (two earned) over three innings.
The 23-year-old pitched in 15 games for Detroit in 2020, two of which were starts. García posted an 8.14 ERA with nine walks and 14 strikeouts in 21 innings.