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With Jones out, Tigers look for outfield depth

Rodriguez called up; Zimmermann closing in on return
@beckjason
August 11, 2019

DETROIT -- The frustration was evident as JaCoby Jones walked through the Tigers' clubhouse Sunday morning, a cast on his left arm to protect a fractured wrist. His season is effectively over, while Detroit is left to figure out what to do in center field for the final seven weeks

DETROIT -- The frustration was evident as JaCoby Jones walked through the Tigers' clubhouse Sunday morning, a cast on his left arm to protect a fractured wrist. His season is effectively over, while Detroit is left to figure out what to do in center field for the final seven weeks of the season.

When the year began, it looked like prospect Daz Cameron might be ready for a Major League callup, after he made a strong impression in Spring Training. But the 22-year-old's .216 batting average at Triple-A Toledo this season, including 128 strikeouts in 366 at-bats entering Sunday, has made this a learning season for the Tigers’ eighth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline. Cameron is batting just .169 (15-for-89) with 37 strikeouts since the All-Star break, and 3-for-24 with 12 strikeouts in August. His struggles have been deep enough that Detroit might have considered letting him regroup at Double-A Erie, like pitching prospect Kyle Funkhouser did last month, if not for the SeaWolves’ already-strong outfield trio of Derek Hill, Jose Azocar and Cam Gibson.

Instead, the Tigers are left to fill center from their Major League group for now. Victor Reyes started Friday and Saturday in Jones’ place with mixed results, from a mistimed jump at the wall on Whit Merrifield’s inside-the-park home run Friday to a collision with second baseman Niko Goodrum on Merrifield’s two-run bloop double in short right-center field Saturday.

Harold Castro moved from left field to center for Sunday’s series finale. The versatile infielder went from a regular spot at second base to third, then to left field. Center could be his path to maintain a spot in Detroit’s lineup once Christin Stewart returns from concussion protocol.

Castro’s potential use in the outfield might have been hinted at in the roster move to place Jones on the injured list. Infielder Ronny Rodriguez was called up from Triple-A Toledo to fill Jones’ roster spot.

Jones wasn’t immediately placed on the injured list after taking a Jorge Lopez fastball off his left wrist Thursday, because the Tigers were hopeful the injury was just a bruise. Once Jones was still battling soreness Saturday, he underwent a CT scan, which revealed an internal fracture.

“I know JaCoby's one of our toughest players who will play through anything, and 36 hours later he was still feeling the same kind of soreness,” head athletic trainer Doug Teter said. “Immediately a flag goes up in your head that something's not right. You get further studies and you just keep looking, trying to figure out what exactly is going on. He has a facture in the ulna, and at this point there's nothing to do but let it heal.”

Zimmermann could rejoin rotation next week

Jordan Zimmermann (cervical spasm) played catch for a second consecutive day, and appears in line to rejoin the Tigers' rotation sometime after he’s eligible to return from the IL next Thursday.

“I just had to take some days off from throwing to let the [nerve block injection] do its work and then ramp it back up quick,” Zimmermann said. “Now that we know how it works and how everything goes, it's a lot smoother.”

Zimmermann received a nerve block injection earlier in the week after experiencing neck and back issues in his last two starts. It marked his third straight year with a midseason nerve block injection for neck or back issues. This time, the problem wasn’t as pressing, he said, but he decided to address it right after the series in Texas, where his neck specialist is based.

More injury updates

Tyson Ross, out since mid-May with right ulnar nerve neuritis, threw a mound session a couple days ago, according to Teter. While the neuritis symptoms have subsided, Ross has battled a stiff neck for the last several weeks.

• While Saturday’s CT scan was bad news for Jones, a similar scan came back with good news for Jeimer Candelario and his sprained left thumb. Tests revealed no fracture, and he remains on the 10-day injured list.

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