Tigers call up Suarez to boost shortstop spot
With Iglesias injured, 22-year-old prospect gets chance to shine
DETROIT -- Tigers shortstop prospect Eugenio Suarez arrived at Comerica Park at about 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
About three hours later, he was making his big league debut, entering as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning after J.D. Martinez pinch-hit for Andrew Romine in the bottom of the sixth.
"It caught me by complete surprise," Suarez, who is ranked by MLB.com as the Tigers' No. 6 prospect, said of the callup through translator and Tigers director of media relations Aileen Villarreal.
Suarez was called up after just two weeks with Triple-A Toledo, during which he hit .302 with four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. Combined with his statistics from Double-A Erie, he entered his debut batting .288 with an .870 OPS in the Minors.
In his first Major League at-bat, Suarez reached on a forceout at third against Toronto reliever Brett Cecil. Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie's throw to first for the attempted double play was off the mark, and Suarez advanced to second. But he came up limping after his slide, grasping his left knee.
"It feels fine," Suarez said after the game. "At the moment, it did hurt a little bit and I was a little bit worried. But I feel great today and hopefully it will feel good tomorrow."
At about 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Suarez found out he'd be heading to Detroit, and he had to scurry to catch a flight from Buffalo, where the Mud Hens were playing.
His first call was to his mother in his native Venezuela, who cried and congratulated her son. Suarez himself felt like crying but said he didn't because he was among friends and didn't want to be embarrassed.
None of Suarez's relatives will be at Comerica Park this homestand; they'll be watching him on TV from Venezuela.
On Thursday, they'll likely see Suarez's first big league start -- something Suarez said he's "really excited" for.
In the corresponding roster move, Detroit designated shortstop Danny Worth for assignment. It's the third shortstop shakeup in as many months for the club. If Suarez can carry the momentum he built in the farm system, there's at least a chance the Tigers might finally have a lasting answer to the loss of injured Jose Iglesias.
With less than two months until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the 22-year-old Suarez will get his shot to hold down the job and give Detroit the spark it couldn't find from former All-Star Alex Gonzalez or a platoon of Romine and Worth.
It's an aggressive move the Tigers are making with Suarez, who began the year as a gifted-but-raw prospect at Erie after making an impression in Spring Training. In an ideal scenario, he might have had more development time this summer.
With the Trade Deadline looming and Iglesias expected back next season, now is the time to figure out what they have in Suarez.
"We'll see what ends up happening. It gives us time to evaluate him, to see if he's ready to help us," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said before Wednesday's game. "But we're struggling right now. We know that we're struggling. We go through those stages during the season.
"The bottom part of our order has really struggled from an offensive perspective. We think he helps us a little bit there, but that's not an all-encompassing solution. So it gives us a chance to look at another individual, and other players have got to step up in the bottom part of the order, too. And we think that they will."
Manager Brad Ausmus stopped short of calling Suarez the new starting shortstop, saying the opposing starting pitcher will more often than not dictate who starts.
"But I would expect [Suarez] would get the bulk of the playing time," Ausmus said before Wednesday's game.