St. Louis, Mo. — It’s not completely official just yet, but after he struck out six and needed just 56 pitches to roll through 4.1 innings at Triple-A Toledo Tuesday night, Matthew Boyd is about to return to the Tigers’ starting rotation.
“He had a great outing,” manager AJ Hinch said. “He faced some guys he’s faced before, major league guys — (Twins) Byron Buxton was down there on a rehab assignment – and it was nice he got into the fifth inning and punched some guys out. He did a nice job taking the next step.”
Hinch and Boyd texted back and forth Wednesday morning. The plan is for Boyd to be at Comerica Park on Friday and go through a battery of tests with the Tigers’ medical and training staffs.
“The hope is he can make a start on Sunday (against the Blue Jays) in the big leagues,” Hinch said.
It will be Boyd’s first start since June 14 when he left in the third inning in Kansas City with what the club called arm discomfort. Boyd later said he thought the discomfort may have started a few weeks before when he had to swing the bat against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
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Rookie Matt Manning will start in the series opener against the Blue Jays on Friday and the Tigers are holding an open spot in the rotation for the game Saturday. That would be Tyler Alexander’s turn in the rotation, but right-hander Jose Urena could also be activated off the injured list for that game.
“Tyler will pitch at some point Saturday,” Hinch said. “Whether he starts or is used as a bulk reliever depends on Urena.”
The Tigers medical and training staffs will also be evaluating Urena (out with a groin injury) on Friday at Comerica.
Haase due back
Eric Haase had a busy rehab outing in Toledo on Tuesday. He caught Boyd’s start and all nine innings, and his two-run home run produced the only runs in the game.
“He’s in a good place,” Hinch said. “Him catching the full nine innings tells me everything I need to know about his comfort level and ability to bounce back.”
Haase, who has been out with back tightness, was scheduled to be the designated hitter for the Mud Hens on Wednesday. After the off-day Thursday, he could be activated as early as Friday.
Which would facilitate either Grayson Greiner being optioned back to Toledo or the Tigers designating Dustin Garneau for assignment. Both have played well in Haase’s absence.
Greiner was one of the stars of the game Tuesday. He walked three times and made three clutch blocks on balls in the dirt, one saved a run in the eighth inning. Starting pitcher Casey Mize also credited Greiner with getting him to mix in more off-speed pitches, knuckle-curves and sliders, to help keep the Cardinals hitters off-balance.
“He was huge,” Hinch said. “It was truly a great effort back there, even navigating through the mess at the end. It was an uncomfortable eighth inning and then having to send (Michael) Fulmer back out for the ninth. We talk about how hot it was and how sweaty, you can imagine how it was with 20 pounds of gear on you and what a toll that took on him.”
A tough decision
The Tigers were up 4-0 when Miguel Cabrera led off the eighth inning with a walk. Hinch immediately sent Zack Short out to pinch-run. He knew that the back-end of his bullpen was short — no Jose Cisnero or Gregory Soto, and he would’ve preferred to stay away from Fulmer, too.
So, another run or two would’ve made things feel a lot more secure. And if not, Hinch figured he could at least put his best defensive lineup out for the last two innings.
You already know what happened. Cabrera’s spot came up with two on in the top of the ninth, the Cardinals walked Robbie Grossman to get there, in a one-run game and Short was punched out.
“Obviously it’s tricky,” Hinch said. “But at the end of the day, with a four-run lead, I’m going to bank on our bullpen and increase our defense — with Harold Castro at second, Short at shortstop.”
As it happened, Short made a brilliant defensive play to get the first out of the eighth. Tommy Edman hit a screaming ground ball that took a head-high hop. Short, playing on the second base side of the infield, made a quick reaction to grab the ball and throw Edman out.
“I’m not saying Harold wouldn’t have made that play,” Hinch said. “You just want your sure-handed guys up the middle the best you can. It’s a tougher decision with a one- or two-run lead.”
Around the horn
Utility man Niko Goodrum (groin) was scheduled to play one more game in Lakeland (Wednesday) and then transfer his rehab assignment to Toledo this weekend. Hinch said it was likely Goodrum’s activation could coincide with the rosters expanding to 28 on Sept. 1.