Detroit Tigers send catcher Eric Haase to injured list with right abdominal strain

·7 min read

Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch didn't have much of a choice.

He evaluated his roster ahead of a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays from Friday through Sunday at the Rogers Centre in Canada. Of course, he realized Grayson Greiner was the only healthy catcher.

"That position is not one that we can tip-toe around," Hinch said Thursday. "That position is not for a 75-80% availability."

Slugging catcher Eric Haase, scratched earlier this week with low back tightness, wasn't sure if he would recover in time to play in Toronto. To fill the void, the Tigers traded with the Colorado Rockies to acquire 34-year-old catcher Dustin Garneau. Needing all their bench spots for the road trip, the Tigers placed Haase on the 10-day injured list Thursday — retroactive to Monday — with a right abdominal strain. He can be reinstated as early as Aug. 26.

"We have capable guys and can get (Haase) right over the next seven or eight days," Hinch said. "Going into a series in Toronto, we want to have a full team. It was uncertain whether or not he was going to be able to play in the next couple of days. That's just getting too long to wait. It's kind of in his back and abdomen."

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Detroit Tigers' Eric Haase reacts after a called strike during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, July 25, 2021.
Detroit Tigers' Eric Haase reacts after a called strike during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, July 25, 2021.

If Haase were a position player, he might not need the injured list.

But the catcher position complicates the situation.

"We could have waited, but we chose not to given the fact that we have three bench players," Hinch said. "With Greiner and Garneau, we can be fully stocked."

Haase, 28, is hitting .238 with 19 home runs, 49 RBIs, 18 walks and 87 strikeouts over 70 games. He should generate some consideration for American League Rookie of the Year, but he is behind the frontrunners at this point in the season.

"He did some early work last weekend and came up a little sore," Hinch said. "He was prepping to play the outfield against the Indians and tweaked his back. Nothing more than it's August, these guys are beat up a little bit. Kind of a freak occurrence that created some soreness to him."

The Tigers have Haase's schedule mapped out, beginning with catching a bullpen Thursday at Comerica Park. Over the weekend, he will travel to Triple-A Toledo to take batting practice. By Tuesday or Wednesday, Hinch wants Haase to make a rehab assignment with the Mud Hens.

"And then all systems go," Hinch said.

Back to the big leagues

Just as Haase went to the injured list, outfielder Daz Cameron came back from his injury. He landed on the injured list July 7 with a right toe sprain, sustained by accidentally kicking the outfield wall during warmups in Texas. The injury is expected to linger until he rests in the offseason.

The 24-year-old rookie has been asked to play through pain, something Hinch said most of his players — especially everyday players Jonathan Schoop, Jeimer Candelario and Robbie Grossman — are already doing.

"It becomes more difficult for him to move around a little bit," Hinch said. "You may see him hit the bag and have a little bit of a limp. ... There's going to be some days he's sore, and there's going to be some days he looks like he's moving around great."

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Detroit Tigers center fielder Daz Cameron (41) doubles during sixth inning action on Thursday, June 24, 2021, at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Detroit Tigers center fielder Daz Cameron (41) doubles during sixth inning action on Thursday, June 24, 2021, at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Cameron is hitting .207 with three home runs, nine RBIs, five walks and 19 strikeouts over 18 games for the Tigers in 2021. He also played 17 games in 2020, posting a .193 batting average, two walks and 19 strikeouts.

The organization needs a closer look to prepare for the future. Cameron has played 23 games in Toledo this season, delivering a .309 batting average, two home runs, 14 RBIs, seven walks and 19 strikeouts. He started in center field for Thursday's series finale with the Angels.

"We want to get him some more playing time," Hinch said. "He can really spark us. He's been swinging the bat pretty well down in Triple-A, and this opened up for him.

"Once we know there may be a tick of limitation here or there, or a tick of soreness here or there, we're going to have to deal with that until the end of the season. It became apparent to us we needed to find a path for him back to the big leagues."

What about Willi Castro?

Although Cameron has returned, the Tigers still plan to use second baseman Willi Castro in the outfield. They seem to view his defensive versatility as a long-term project, rather than a short-term fix to the numerous outfielder injuries.

Castro has played 71 games at second base, 18 at shortstop, five at designated hitter and four in left field.

"He's going to play outfield in Toronto," Hinch said. "We'll continue to mix and match him. He'll play a little more second base than certainly the last five or six days when he's been in the outfield, but we're going to continue this versatility for Willi."

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Rogers to 60-day IL 'procedural'

Catcher Jake Rogers has been sidelined since July 19 with right arm soreness. When the Tigers acquired Garneau from the Rockies, they shifted Rogers to the 60-day injured list to make room for their newest catcher on the 40-man roster.

Rogers is now eligible to return from the injured list Sept. 17, aligning with his recovery process.

"Jake is slowly but steadily getting better," Hinch said. "His throwing and hitting programs are about to start, and that's going to take a good three weeks to get him into a game. That's going to lead into early September, which gives us the last couple of weeks in September to possibly activate him. A lot has to happen between now and then, but the timelines were starting to collide with his availability versus the 60-day, so it was more procedural."

Other notes

• For the Toronto series, the Tigers will carry four players on the traveling taxi squad: catcher Juan Centeno, right-hander Will Vest, righty Alex Lange and outfielder Jacob Robson.

"We're going to take a pretty extensive list because of the COVID issues in Canada and getting in and out of the country," Hinch said. "We've all tested, and we've all tested negative. We can leave today after the game."

• Outfielder Derek Hill (left ribcage contusion) is also traveling to Toronto. He is expected to be activated from the injured list Saturday.

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Tigers center fielder Derek Hill and left fielder Akil Baddoo come out of the game after colliding with each other in the eighth inning of the 9-4 win over the Orioles on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Baltimore.
Tigers center fielder Derek Hill and left fielder Akil Baddoo come out of the game after colliding with each other in the eighth inning of the 9-4 win over the Orioles on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Baltimore.

• Outfielder Akil Baddoo (concussion) will stay in Triple-A Toledo to continue his rehab assignment, rather than traveling to Toronto. Baddoo needs to get comfortable with his swing again, and because the Tigers face three left-handed pitchers, there isn't a rush to activate him before playing the Blue Jays. He should rejoin the team Tuesday in St. Louis for a two-game series with the Cardinals.

• Left-hander Matthew Boyd (left arm discomfort) made his second rehab start for Toledo on Wednesday. He fired three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits. He struck out four and didn't concede a walk, throwing 29 of 43 pitches for strikes.

"Great day for him," Hinch said. "He said he felt a little more in rhythm and his stuff was good. I got everything I wanted, including a nice report this morning that he feels really good. He'll pitch again Tuesday in Toledo and extend out even further. Once we get him to four (innings) and 60 (pitches), he becomes a little bit more of a factor here. All encouraging steps along the way, given his stuff has ticked up, his mechanics are in-sync and he's making pitches."

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: Detroit Tigers place Eric Haase (abdominal strain) on 10-day IL