'Can't catch a break': Tigers place Will Vest on COVID-IL, AJ Hinch out sick
Cleveland — Injuries, illnesses. It just won’t relent for the Tigers.
Earlier on Friday, the club announced that right-handed reliever Will Vest was being placed on the injured list and will be put in COVID protocol.
A couple of hours later, manager AJ Hinch assembled the media in the dugout and announced he was ill and would be heading back to the hotel. Bench coach George Lombard would manage the first game of the three-game set with the Guardians beginning Friday.
"It's been a rough couple of days," said Hinch, who felt sick in the finale in St. Petersburg Wednesday. "It's non-COVID. I've been tested a couple of times, but this is the first time I've seen daylight in a couple of days."
Just in the last week or so, the Tigers have put outfielder Austin Meadows on the injured list because of vertigo. Starting pitcher Matt Manning, on the IL because of shoulder inflammation, left his rehab start early on Thursday dehydrated and dizzy. Tarik Skubal, who got the start here Friday, has been battling flu-like symptoms.
Also, Eduardo Rodriguez will likely go on the injured list on Sunday after he left Wednesday's game with soreness in his right side. He will join starting pitchers Casey Mize (elbow), Tyler Alexander (elbow), Michael Pineda (finger) and Manning on the injured list.
"Just keep doing the job regardless who is out there," reliever Alex Lange said. "We've got a game to play, so we've got to take care of business. It is a lot. We can't catch a break right now. But the games don't stop for you. You have to keep going forward."
Losing Vest for at least 10 days is a significant blow to the bullpen. He had pitched his way into a leverage role, allowing four runs in 17 innings with 22 strikeouts. Opponents were slashing .135/.200/.250 against him.
"He did test positive," Hinch said. "He allowed us to share that information. He will be out for a while."
Vest will have to have consecutive negative test results before he can be activated. Several other Tigers players were tested, those deemed to be in close contact with Vest. Nobody else tested positive.
"It's been going around the league," reliever Michael Fulmer said of COVID. "It's obviously coming back. I'm not sure what the plan of attack is. We have some guys up from Toledo and we will use the taxi squad. From what I heard, everything is good with everybody else.
"We will just follow the protocols and see what happens."
The Tigers purchased the contract of right-hander Drew Carlton from Toledo to take Vest's spot on the roster. Carlton, who saw action in four games last season, posted 19 strikeouts and four walks in 15 innings for the Mud Hens.
Also called up from Toledo were right-handed starting pitcher Elvin Rodriguez and right-handed reliever Ricardo Pinto. Both were put on the taxi squad.
"Every day is a test," Hinch said. "It is part of it. Injuries happen. We've been hit pretty hard in one specific area of our team and that concerns us because that has been a stable part of our team.
"We will have a starting pitcher for every game. It's an opportunity for some of the younger guys. This isn't how we drew it up, but it's our reality."
Hinch said that rookie Beau Brieske's start originally scheduled for Sunday will be pushed to Monday to give him an extra day of rest. Presently, the Tigers are listing TBA for that day's starter. There is a chance that Rodriguez could be activated for that game.
"Right now, I feel useless, to be honest," Hinch said. "I've had no sleep. Spent the off day in bed. And I don't want to get anybody else sick. I've never spent a game where I was the manager in a hotel room. This will be new."
Word on E-Rod
Hinch said the initial evaluation of Eduardo Rodriguez's left side was encouraging.
"There was minimal sign of trauma or issues," Hinch said. "The nerve-racking part is that there is no sign of trauma. He will probably still go on the IL; we haven't decided. Our doctors will review it. He was seen in south Florida on the off day."
Hinch said the worry was an oblique or intercostal injury.
"The only way he's able to test it is by throwing, and that's a slippery slope," he said. "You have to be careful when to do that."
Another waiver claim
The Tigers also were busy on the waiver wire the last two days.
On Friday, they claimed utility player Brendon Davis from the Angels. The Angels had to put him waivers to clear a spot on their 40-man roster for a player returning off COVID-IL.
Davis, a fifth-round pick of the Dodgers in 2015 who will be 25 on July 28, was hitting .243, with a .333 on-base average and slugging .463 with six home runs at Triple-A Salt Lake, where he played every position except pitcher and catcher.
He’s never played in the big leagues.
In 2021, Davis hit 30 home runs and knocked in 83 runs, spanning three levels of the Angles system (High-A, Double-A and Triple-A). He hadn’t shown that type of power in his career.
With the addition of Davis, the Tigers now have 40 players on the roster.
On Thursday, the Tigers signed 31-year-old outfielder Trayce Thompson to a minor-league deal and assigned him to Toledo. Thompson is the son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson and the brother of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson.
The Tigers are his sixth organization. He was designated for assignment by the Padres, where he was 1-for-14 with seven strikeouts earlier this season.
Around the horn
Hinch said Manning will make at least one more rehab start with Toledo since his last one was cut short. "He was dehydrated," Hinch said. "He has no issue with his arm. He will throw again in Triple-A. It'll push him back another turn through the rotation."
... Former Tigers center fielder Anthony Gose has worked his way back to the big leagues as a hard-throwing lefty reliever. He's pitched 10.1 innings out of the Guardians' bullpen, giving up six earned runs with 14 strikeouts and six walks. "How impressive is that, though?" said Fulmer, one of two current Tigers who played with Gose. "To reach the highest level of baseball as a hitter and then do it all over again as a pitcher. It's nothing short of remarkable."
Tigers at Guardians
First pitch: 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Progressive Field
RHP Alex Faedo (0-1, 2.87), Tigers: Fun fact: Faedo’s first three days of MLB service time were starts. Rare. In two of them, he was serving as the 27th man in doubleheaders. But he’s in the rotation now and his slider is a big reason. Hitters are whiffing at it 44% of the time and are 4-for-19 against it. He also has been throwing first-pitch strikes at a 70% clip, which is useful.
RHP Shane Bieber (1-2, 3.72), Guardians: His ERA was inflated by a bad start against Toronto (7 runs in 3 IP), but that was sandwiched between two beauties (13 innings, 2 ER, 14 strikeouts). Right-handers are doing most of the damage against him, hitting .298 (lefties .167) and slugging .500 (.222 lefties). His fastball velocity is down 2 mph on average, from 92-93 to 90-91 mph.