How September call-ups fit into Tigers roster
The reinforcements are coming. But can they help the Tigers through the final four weeks of this division race?
The optimistic answer is yes. As the 19-inning loss in Toronto showed, every little bit can make a big difference in a close game, and the Tigers are likely to have a slew of them down the stretch. The realistic answer is that there’s a limit.
Steven Moya can’t make up for a hobbled Miguel Cabrera, and it’s not fair to think that he could. After all, he hasn’t played above Double-A ball, and he had a 161-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio there.
Moya can, however, give an opposing manager something to think about when he looks down the Tigers lineup in the late innings and debates whether to throw in a right-handed specialist to face, say, Rajai Davis.
“He brings power,” Brad Ausmus said. “He brings that threat off the bench to hit the ball 450 feet, and he can hit it to all fields. Opposing teams, opposing managers have to be aware of that. Even if he doesn’t actually get into a game, you have to know that he’s there.”
That’s kind of the theme on the positional players who are being called up, including catcher James McCann. If the Tigers saw them as potential starters down the stretch in a playoff race, they would’ve been called up by now.
McCann, in particular, is interesting, given his ability to hit left-handed pitching (.342 average at Triple-A Toledo). He has been praised for his work handling a pitching staff, and Kyle Ryan noted he kept a book on opposing hitters in Toledo to guide him on calling a game.
Starting out, at least, he appears to be the third catcher the Tigers traditionally call up for September. That said, Ausmus liked what he heard about him from Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish.
“LP really likes him,” Ausmus said, “says we won’t be disappointed in any way with how he works with pitchers. He takes a lot of pride in the defensive side of the game. He’s very solid behind the plate.”
Hernan Perez, who was up for the stretch run last year, appears to be in line for a similar utility infield role this time around, though it’ll be interesting to see if the Tigers give the right-handed hitter a spot start at short at some point (he hit .290 off righties this year with the Hens).
“Hernan Perez is a very versatile player,” Ausmus said. “He had a good year in Toledo. He can play anywhere in the infield.”
Ausmus remembers what he saw from Tyler Collins in limited playing time last year. He seemed to be the trickiest of the decisions, and it might well have hinged on Andy Dirks’ status trying to rehab from back surgery.
“If Dirks was here, I don’t know for sure, but there’s a possibility that one of the left-handed outfielders would not have been called up,” Ausmus said. “I don’t know that for sure.”
On the potential role, Ausmus said, “He doesn’t have quite the raw power that Moya has, but he has power. He can run a little bit, so he gives you that option of power and a little speed.”
Ausmus also noted that Collins could be useful as a defensive replacement in the corner spots.
As for the pitchers, it’s pretty straightforward, at least for now. Though the Tigers called up three pitchers who have started for them, they have one spot to fill. For now, that goes to Kyle Lobstein, coming off his six quality innings against the Yankees last Thursday.
Lobstein will start Tuesday in Cleveland. His spot comes up again next Sunday night against the Giants on ESPN. Whether Lobstein fills the spot likely depends on how he fares Tuesday.
“Lobstein’s the fifth guy right now,” said Ausmus. “We’ll see how Lobber, how Kyle throws and we’ll go from there.”
Ray and Ryan become relievers for now. That could free up Blaine Hardy to be used in a more versatile role, beyond long relief.