CHICAGO -- The Tigers lost their everyday third baseman when Brandon Inge went on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with mononucleosis. So why did they fill his spot with a backup catcher?
The answer, long story short, is that they have Inge's replacements with the big club already.
"It would be different if we had some surefire prospect that we wanted to give a shot," manager Jim Leyland said, "but we don't have guys that are ready for that yet. So we'll just play around with [third base] with [Danny] Worth and [Don] Kelly."
Nick Castellanos, widely regarded as Detroit's third baseman of the future, is in his first pro season at Class A West Michigan. Francisco Martinez, a potentially promising third baseman, is at Double-A Erie, but he's just 20 years old and still finding his way offensively. The primary third baseman at Triple-A Toledo for much of the season was Worth, and he's already up.
Thus, the Tigers opted for late-game flexibility with Santos, who spent two weeks with the team in April while Victor Martinez was on the DL but played only once in that stretch. By adding Santos, Leyland said, he can use a pinch-runner or pinch-hitter for Alex Avila without having to shift Victor Martinez from the DH spot, something he doesn't want to do.
"It was a situation where we really don't need anybody else," Leyland said. "I don't mean that we're loaded. I just mean I've got a lot of outfielders. I've got a lot of infielders. If we were going to bring somebody up to play them, that's one thing, but that's not the case. We've got enough guys to play. So we might as well just add a catcher for a few days or however long it is."
If Magglio Ordonez returns from the DL on Monday, as the Tigers hope, it won't be for long. Ordonez began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Friday. After playing right field on Friday and Sunday, sandwiched around a game at DH on Saturday, Ordonez will be re-evaluated. He has been on the DL for the last few weeks with weakness in his surgically repaired right ankle.
Coke starts, Magglio plays right for Toledo
CHICAGO -- While Phil Coke lasted 5 2/3 innings in what is expected to be the lone outing of his rehab assignment for Triple-A Toledo on Friday night at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Magglio Ordonez went 0-for-3 in what the Tigers expect will be a weekend-long rehab stint with the Mud Hens.
Coke is expected to return to his Tigers rotation spot next Wednesday at Texas. Friday's outing was more about stretching out his arm than it was about the results. He threw 89 pitches, right in the 85-90 pitch range manager Jim Leyland cited Friday, and threw 58 strikes.
Coke held the SWB Yankees scoreless on four hits through his first five innings before giving up three runs on a four-hit rally in the sixth. He struck out six and walked two. Half of his eight hits were doubles, including one from Brandon Laird, the younger brother of former Tigers catcher Gerald Laird.
Coke went on the 15-day disabled list a week and a half ago with a bone bruise in his right foot.
Ordonez, who has been on the 15-day DL for the past three weeks with weakness in his surgically repaired right ankle, went on the rehab assignment to try to regain his timing at the plate while also checking his mobility. He played five innings in right field. He is scheduled to start at DH Saturday and play seven innings in right on Sunday.
Ordonez came to bat with runners on first and second in his first plate appearances and struck out on three pitches from Yankees starter David Phelps. He popped up to second his next time up before reportedly barely missing a home run on his third at-bat with a fly out to the right-field wall.
Avila looking the other way for hits
CHICAGO -- Alex Avila broke into the big leagues with the Tigers two years ago and built a reputation as a power hitter who pulled his home runs to right field. However, he said, he was more of an opposite-field power hitter at the University of Alabama, as well as the coming up the Minors.
That's starting to show in his stats in Detroit. He entered his start on Friday against the White Sox with 41 hits -- 18 pulled to right field, 11 hit to left, and 12 driven to center. A good number of those opposite-field hits have come in the last couple weeks.
Avila said it's an adjustment from the pitchers, not him.
"I think it's just going with the pitchers," Avila said. "Lately, I've been pitched a lot more away than early in the season. Early on, I was pulling the ball a lot because I was getting pitched in a lot."
The adjustment hasn't affected his power, though his average has dropped since his hot start in April. Avila batted .246 in May compared to .311 in the opening month, but the difference in his slugging percentage is slight, .522 in May compared with .541 earlier.
"When you're up there, you try to keep a simple approach and have a game plan of hitting the ball hard," Avila sadi. "Sometimes you hit them hard and they catch them."
Thomas close to getting back on the mound
CHICAGO -- Brad Thomas is back to throwing long toss daily with the hope of throwing off a mound in the coming days as he progresses back from inflammation in his left elbow.
Thomas, who went on the 15-day disabled list on May 21 after his elbow locked up on him while trying to warm up, is throwing without pain, but also seemingly without a timetable. For now, the plan is to have him keep throwing until he can put some bullpen sessions together.
Detroit's bullpen has pitched well in his absence, but he could end up returning to the long relief role.
Peralta, Verlander earn Tigers' May honors
CHICAGO -- Jhonny Peralta and Justin Verlander were named the Tigers Player and Pitcher of the Month, respectively, for May, by a vote of local media.
Peralta batted .354 (28-for-79) with seven home runs, seven doubles and 20 RBIs for the month, his best May numbers since 2006. His numbers seemed to improve as the weather warmed following a respectable start in April.
Verlander made headlines for his no-hitter on May 7 at Toronto, followed by 5 2/3 innings of no-hit ball six days later against the Royals. But his overall numbers -- a 3-0 record, 2.62 ERA, 33 strikeouts and better than seven innings per start -- stood out on their own.
Verlander earned consideration for American League Pitcher of the Month, as voted by national media, but lost out to Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson.
Miguel Cabrera spent most of his Major League career as a third baseman and started out there in his first season in Detroit in 2008 before shifting to first. But don't count on him making any appearances over there while Brandon Inge is out. When asked jokingly if he still had his third-base glove, Cabrera smiled, shook his head and said, "No chance." Detroit entered Friday with an 11-5 record against the American League Central, good for a .688 winning percentage. No AL team had a better percentage within its own division.