Detroit Tigers trust Niko Goodrum at shortstop despite too many errors

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Detroit Tigers shortstop Niko Goodrum crouched and stuck out his glove to make a back-handed play on a weak ground ball from Salvador Perez during the second inning in Friday's 7-5 win over the Kansas City Royals.

But the ball scooted underneath his glove for an error. He ripped off his mitt and with his bare right hand in disappointment. It was Goodrum's sixth error in his past 12 games at shortstop.

The results are uncharacteristic for the 2020 Gold Glove finalist.

"It frustrates him because the one thing he takes probably the most pride in is his ability to handle the glove at shortstop," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Saturday. "There are plays that he knows they need to be made. We know they need to be made. I trust him, that he's going to make the adjustment and do it."

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Niko Goodrum #28 of the Detroit Tigers warms up before the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on May 21, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
Niko Goodrum #28 of the Detroit Tigers warms up before the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on May 21, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

The two errors Goodrum made May 6 against the Boston Red Sox were his first mistakes this season, triggering a downward spiral. He spent most of his time at second base early on until Willi Castro's throwing miscues forced Hinch to swap their positions.

Since April 21, Goodrum has served as the everyday shortstop.

"It's a little bit of everything," Hinch said. "He's had some errors on some plays that he normally makes. He's very sure handed. Error totals doesn't tell me whether he's sure handed or not. Error totals tell me what execution has happened. He's put himself in some awkward positions to field balls."

In the past week, Goodrum has prioritized his early work in the infield before games. He is trying to shake a defensive slump. He had two errors May 6 against the Red Sox, one error May 11 against the Royals, one error May 13 against the Royals, one error May 16 against the Chicago Cubs and one error Friday against the Royals.

The errors are adding up.

"It can get to you mentally a little bit," Hinch said. "I don't think it's a mental lapse or I don't think that he has boiled over on the frustration side, but it's a continual work in progress. The reason we put him at shortstop is because we trusted his sure-handedness."

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Goodrum's error May 11 against the Royals was his most costly. With two outs in the ninth inning, carrying a 7-4 lead, he fielded a simple grounder from Sebastian Rivero but didn't make a play — allowing Kansas City to load the bases. Instead of throwing to first, second or third base, Goodrum froze.

The next batter, Jorge Soler, crushed a bases-clearing double to tie the game.

"He's had a few lapses in the last couple of weeks," Hinch said. "We need to continue to put him in a better position with either footwork or hands or positioning and get him going in the right direction. He's a better fielder than he's been."

The return of Ramos

Since returning from the injured list, catcher Wilson Ramos is 1-for-16 with two RBIs and five strikeouts through Saturday. His lone hit was an RBI single in Friday's 7-5 win over the Royals. On Wednesday, Ramos grounded out to drive in a run to help with a 6-2 win against the Seattle Mariners in the series finale.

The Tigers need Ramos to improve offensively. He is healthy in his return from a lumbar spine strain, which sent him to the 10-day injured list May 7. The team is carrying three catchers on the roster: Ramos, Jake Rogers and Eric Haase.

"He hasn't gotten on track yet after being down for 10 days," Hinch said. "We chose not to put him on a rehab assignment. We did a little bit of live stuff with him beforehand, and he hasn't quite caught his timing, his rhythm and his consistency. He's somewhat of a streaky hitter, mostly in pitch selection."

"I'm going to get him behind the plate (Saturday) where he's probably a little more comfortable rather than being the DH. Maybe that unlocks his offensive timing a little bit. He's always a threat to do some damage."

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Detroit Tigers' Wilson Ramos hits an RBI single during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 21, 2021.
Detroit Tigers' Wilson Ramos hits an RBI single during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, on May 21, 2021.

Ramos crushed six home runs in a seven-game span, from April 5 through April 13, but he is still waiting for his seventh homer this season. Since his last long ball, Ramos is 14-for-81 (.173) with four doubles, six RBIs, two walks and 17 strikeouts in 24 games.

The 33-year-old is considered an offense-first catcher, which is why Hinch plans to use him more often as the designated hitter with Rogers and Haase — two better defensive options — on the roster. R

"When I met with Wilson in Seattle, and I told him, 'Listen, you're not going to catch as much as you were prior to being on the IL,'" Hinch said. "'I'm going to get you some DH at-bats. I like what I'm seeing behind the plate (from Rogers and Haase).' He was very complementary of our guys. He's a real team guy. He understands, watches and sees, and he's celebrating in the dugout with them.

"It's a real professional approach on someone who has been an everyday catcher for the bulk of his career. I applaud him for that effort. He's got to get back on track offensively. ... I appreciate the camaraderie and the teamwork that's going on behind the plate."

Ramos, a 12-year MLB veteran, has a lifetime .272 batting average. He is hitting .204 across 33 games this season, with six home runs, 13 RBIs, five walks and 28 strikeouts.

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 trust Niko Goodrum at shortstop despite too many errors