The Detroit Tigers have signed Kody Clemens for his MLB debut.
A roster spot for Clemens, a left-handed and versatile defender, was opened Monday morning when the Tigers decided to put outfielder Robbie Grossman on the 10-day injury list with a neck strain.
The Tigers plan to use Clemens primarily against right-handed pitchers.
“We don’t need him to be Superman,” manager AJ Hinch said ahead of Monday’s game at Comerica Park against the Minnesota Twins. “He’s not the answer to all our problems but this is an opportunity for him to make his way into the big leagues for the first time and he deserves it. … He prevailed here.”
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Clemens, the son of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens, is the No. 17 pick for the Tigers, according to the MLB Pipeline. The Tigers drafted Clemens in the third round, No. 79 overall, in the 2018 draft.
For Triple-A Toledo, Clemens hit .283 with nine doubles, six triples, eight homers, 31 RBIs, 10 walks and 52 strikeouts in 45 games. The 26-year-old has played second base (17 starts), third base (11 starts), left field (10 starts), and first base (seven starts).
“If he can come up and do what he did in Triple-A, that’s going to be a nice boost for us and a nice addition to the lineup,” Hinch said. “It’s going to create some crazy defensive alignments. Replacing Robbie, who only plays outfield, with an infielder is a challenge but his racquet got him here.”
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His primary position, second base, will be occupied by Jonathan Schoop, meaning Clemens will spend most of his MLB season at first base, third base and on the corners of the outfield.
Without Grossman, utility player Harold Castro will get more outfield reps, and utility player Willi Castro — a newer left field mainstay — will get some starts in right field.
“You’re going to see some creative options,” Hinch said.
The Tigers considered calling up Clemens at least twice this season, but the organization decided on other options in the 40-man roster. Clemens joined the Tigers’ 40-man roster last November.
Learning of his promotion while en route to Columbus, Ohio, Clemens showed up at Comerica Park around noon Monday at 1:10 p.m. so he will be available from the bench.
He is expected to start in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
“We were very careful about when we called him,” Hinch said. “If you bench him, you’ll feel better, but it may not get you any closer to victory. But his name has been thrown around a few times. Now we will force him into the line-up.”
The timetable for Grossman’s return is unclear. Grossman, 32, hits .199 with a .241 slugging percentage, 21 walks and 51 strikeouts in 42 games. He suffered neck spasms in the batting cage before Sunday’s game, tried to play through the pain and was replaced in the lineup after a plate appearance.
“He’s not better, that’s the main problem,” said Hinch. “We can’t play short (one roster spot). This IL placement is part of the symptoms because he cannot turn his neck. … We had to make an aggressive move, but it can’t work. That’s the main issue.”
Miguel Cabrera needs ‘one more day’
Designated attacker Miguel Cabrera – who was absent from Sunday and Monday’s starting line-up – felt healthy enough to play on Monday, but the Tigers opted to give him an extra day off.
The 39-year-old left Saturday’s game with lower back strains but won’t need to be on the injury list.
“Miguel’s in great spirits,” Hinch said. “He will move a little and do a little more than yesterday. Maybe he’s available for a late inning pinch hit, maybe not, but we’ll see how we go.”
Cabrera, a 20-year MLB veteran, hits .294 with six doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs, 10 walks and 42 strikeouts in 40 games.
His 113 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) surpasses any Tigers with at least 110 plate appearances, followed by Spencer Torkelson (80), Grossman (71), Jeimer Candelario (70), Javier Báez (57) and Jonathan Schoop (44). ).
Key player in Lakeland
Outfielder Austin Meadows hasn’t changed into his Tigers jersey since May 15, but the 27-year-old appears to be on his way back after being put on the injury list with vertigo on May 16.
Meadows, who is currently conducting baseball activities in Lakeland, Fla., could begin a rehab assignment as early as Wednesday.
The Tigers will benefit from his racquet returning to the lineup considering he’s hitting .267s in 28 games with 12 walks and 14 strikeouts. The Tigers acquired Meadows on April 5 in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right-hander Casey Mize, out since April 15 with a right elbow sprain, played catch Monday morning in Lakeland, beginning his second throwing program since the Tigers put him on the injured list.
The first throwing program was nullified after Mize’s rehab start on May 12 for Triple-A Toledo. He recorded just two outs in the first inning on 29 pitches, allowing for three runs with four hits and one hit batter.
Riley Greene to Mud Hens
The Tigers moved outfielder Riley Greene’s rehab assignment from Low-A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo on Monday. The 21-year-old went 2-for-6 in two games for the Flying Tigers with two RBIs, a walk and a stolen base.
After taking Sunday off, Greene will be in the lineup for the Mud Hens on Monday. He is scheduled to play against the Columbus Clippers in Columbus, Ohio on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Toledo don’t have a game on Tuesday.
Greene — the No. 5 pick in the 2019 draft — is the No. 1 pick in the Tigers and the No. 2 pick in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. He played 11 games in spring training and hit .421 with seven extra base hits, including two homers, before breaking his foot on April 1 on a foulball.
Leadoff hitter Harold Castro
Harold Castro faced the Twins right-hander Dylan Bundy on Monday for the Tigers for the first time this season and the eighth time in his career. Castro, 28, came on and hit .636 (7 of 11) with three home runs in his last three games.
“Harold swings the bat like anyone,” Hinch said. “I want him to get as many at-bats against right-handed pitching as we can.”
Hinch believes the twins will use left-hander Caleb Thielbar against Castro at some point in Monday’s game. Castro did well against both righties and lefties in 2022, but he’s better against righties (.306 batting average) than lefties (.231) in his career.
Castro, a five-year MLB veteran, is hitting .325 in 27 games this season with four doubles, a triple, four homers, nine RBIs, two walks and 14 strikeouts.
“It’s really important to me that Harold gets the most bats,” Hinch said. “That’s not your standard guy on the base. It’s not the guy who’s going to run the bases and wreak havoc like others in our roster. Nobody on our team swings the bat, bat to ball, better than Harold.”
Gary Jones on the mend
First base coach Gary Jones took a foul ball off his leg in Sunday’s third inning. Though Jones is with the Tigers, assistant coach Mike Hessman will take his place as first base coach for Monday’s game.
“Gary’s ankle is pretty swollen and pretty rough,” Hinch said. “We’ll see how he fares as the series goes on, but Hess will pass first.”