AJ Hinch isn't interested in Detroit Tigers being 'a spoiler' in September. Here's why

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CINCINNATI — The Detroit Tigers have 27 games remaining in AJ Hinch's first year as manager, entering Friday's series opener with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

This is the time of the season where non-postseason contenders can look to the future. The Tigers (63-72) surely need to learn more about a number of players in the final month — most notably Eric Haase, Willi Castro, Niko Goodrum, Victor Reyes and Alex Lange — to prepare their offseason checklist.

But the main objective doesn't change.

"We're evaluating all the time, but this isn't a tryout camp," Hinch said Friday. "To me, it's playing the game at this level the way it's supposed to be played and win as many games as you can. I don't look at anything different this month as opposed to last month or previous months."

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Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch talks with players on the mound during the third inning at Comerica Park in Detroit, Sunday, July 4, 2021.
Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch talks with players on the mound during the third inning at Comerica Park in Detroit, Sunday, July 4, 2021.

When MLB rosters expanded Wednesday, the Tigers boosted their active roster from 26 to 28 players. The organization reinstated veterans Goodrum and Wily Peralta from the injured list, rather than adding two of their young players from Triple-A Toledo.

The Tigers could bring up infielder Isaac Paredes, who is on the 40-man roster, at some point near the end of the campaign. The 22-year-old is hitting .261 with eight home runs, 33 RBIs, 45 walks and 37 strikeouts in Toledo.

Paredes went 10-for-39 (.256) with one homer, four RBIs, six walks and five strikeouts over 14 games in Detroit this season.

Outfielder Daz Cameron — another 40-man member — was demoted to the Mud Hens on Aug. 29, so he couldn't even come back until the middle of next week. The same is true for reliever Jason Foley, who was sent down Aug. 30. (A player optioned to the minor leagues must stay there for a minimum of 10 days before he is eligible to return.)

"We will obviously monitor different things, but the mentality hasn't changed," Hinch said. "I realize we're under .500 and not necessarily in pole position for a playoff game, but I don't want September to turn into some laboratory tryout for next year or end all be all evaluation process. We're trying to win games, just like we did in May, June, July and much of August."

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Tarik Skubal #29 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after giving up a two-run home run hit by Mark Canha #20 of the Oakland Athletics during the top of the fifth inning at Comerica Park on August 31, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.
Tarik Skubal #29 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after giving up a two-run home run hit by Mark Canha #20 of the Oakland Athletics during the top of the fifth inning at Comerica Park on August 31, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.

The Tigers also want continue developing their young and inexperienced players already in the big leagues. Building on the massive steps forward earlier in the year is crucial to growing Hinch's winning culture.

One of many examples includes rookie starting pitchers Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning. The innings those three pitch down the stretch will be closely monitored in an effort to keep them healthy through September.

The next step, Hinch hopes, is playing in October.

"We're trying to be elite," Hinch said. "We're trying to raise the bar. We're trying to win as many games as we can. I don't think we can approach it any other way. I don't think it's fair to the players if I approach it that way and still expect them to take it as a regular-season game. So why aren't we all on the same bus?"

To finish the season, the Tigers play the Reds (72-63), Pittsburgh Pirates (48-87), Tampa Bay Rays (84-50), Milwaukee Brewers (82-53), Chicago White Sox (78-56), Kansas City Royals (59-74) and Minnesota Twins (58-75).

The Tigers face the American League East-leading Rays seven times, and they square off with the AL Central-leading White Sox six times.

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"I'm not interested in being a spoiler," Hinch said. "I'm not interested in being a try-hard team. We're trying to be a winner. That takes a lot of preparation and a lot of attention to detail, whether the month is March, April, May, all the way through September.

"Again, September is not the month that I want to remember. We're trying to get to October, and that can't be emphasized enough on a team that's trying to learn and evolve its mentality."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: AJ Hinch explains why the Detroit Tigers must win in September