DETROIT -- Phil Coke's trip to Triple-A Toledo wasn't so much a demotion as it was a brief hiatus. Nick Castellanos' season in Toledo was a developmental stop along his maturation to a Major League talent.
Both are about to play a role in the Tigers' stretch drive.
Coke, having delivered six scoreless innings for the Mud Hens, rejoined the team Saturday along with infielder Hernan Perez, recalled just in time to qualify for the postseason roster. Castellanos, the sweet-swinging outfielder who has been the top prospect in Detroit's system since last summer, is expected to join them Sunday for his first stint in the big leagues.
Infielder Danny Worth and reliever Evan Reed, both of whom have spent time in Detroit, were also informed they'll be recalled from Toledo on Sunday, according to John Wagner of the Toledo Blade. Castellanos was told Saturday night his contract is being purchased, according to a source.
Manager Jim Leyland confirmed after Saturday's 10-5 win that three players are coming up for Sundays series finale against the Indians, but did not name them. The Tigers are expected to announce the moves Sunday morning.
To make room for Coke and Perez, the Tigers optioned long relievers Jeremy Bonderman to Triple-A Toledo and Luke Putkonen to Class A Lakeland. Both will be recalled in the coming days. Since Lakeland's season ends Sunday, Putkonen can return Monday in Boston. Bonderman, who for contract reasons couldn't be optioned anywhere but Triple-A, will have to wait another day while the Mud Hens season concludes Monday afternoon.
The Tigers optioned Coke to Toledo on Aug. 20 with the express purpose of getting his pitches back in order. His six scoreless innings with five hits, a walk and nine strikeouts would suggest that he did.
"Coke went down there and threw well, which does not surprise us, because his velocity has been good," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He kept the ball down better there, which is one thing we wanted him to work on. He wasn't just throwing hard for the sake of throwing hard. Part of his problem has been the command aspect of it, and he did a better job of that at Triple-A. Hopefully, he can continue. He only had a few outings."
Perez joins the Tigers for his third stint this year, having spent most of July and a week in August filling in at second base for an injured Omar Infante. The Tigers' eighth-ranked prospect, who projects as the second baseman of the future, can also play shortstop, which gives him some utility value alongside Worth. More valuable for postseason purposes, Perez is a speedster on the basepaths, having stolen 55 bases in 66 tries in the Minors over the last two years.
Perez entered as a pinch-runner for Brayan Pena in the eighth inning Saturday and scored on Austin Jackson's triple.
"He's not a burner, but he allows Jim to use him as a pinch-runner, with the flexibility of position," Dombrowski said. "He can play second, play short, move some other people around. But he does give us some speed."
Castellanos will give them another bat. The 21-year-old left fielder hit his 18th home run of the year for the Mud Hens on Saturday night along with his 76th RBI. He'll finish his Triple-A season with a .276 average.
Though Castellanos' potential arrival has been touted all summer, the Tigers have consistently said that they won't call him up unless there's a role for him. Miguel Cabrera's lingering abdominal injury, and the potential need to sit him for a stretch, might have created an opportunity.
Tigers play it safe by sitting Miggy against Tribe
DETROIT -- After early exits the previous two games, Miguel Cabrera is not in the Tigers' starting lineup for Saturday's game against the Cleveland Indians.
Cabrera remains day to day with abdominal irritation. The American League batting and RBIs leader was in the Tigers' clubhouse for pregame activities, but he did not take part in batting practice on the field.
"I can't say for sure, but we probably could play him today, per se," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Saturday afternoon. "But it's just one of those things where you say it's better to give him a break, and go from there."
Utility infielder Ramon Santiago started at third for the Tigers, giving Detroit another at-bat from the right side against Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir. Manager Jim Leyland had been toying with a few different options at third base, including former Mariners infield-prospect-turned-slugging-outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo, but he opted for the lefty-righty matchups for a day.
Torii Hunter moved down from his usual second spot in the batting order to fill Cabrera's spot behind cleanup hitter Prince Fielder. Jose Iglesias, who has hit no higher than seventh in the Tigers' order since his trade from Boston at the end of July, filled in batting second.
Leyland gave every indication he'll use the daily matchups to determine how to fill in for Cabrera whenever he's out. How long that is remains a mystery.
"He's not playing today, but he's day to day," Dombrowski said Saturday.
The Tigers added some infield depth Saturday, recalling middle-infield prospect Hernan Perez from Triple-A Toledo for his third stint with the big club, but that move had been planned before Cabrera tweaked his abdominal trying to stretch a double Thursday against Oakland. Dombrowski said Cabrera's situation so far hasn't affected their plans for who they'll call up when rosters expand in September.
Still, Dombrowski made a point to emphasize that they're not going to jeopardize Cabrera's health by playing him if doctors tell them there's a risk of more serious injury. Though Cabrera is a near-lock for his third consecutive batting title, something no right-handed hitter has done since Rogers Hornsby, and has a chance at an unprecedented second straight Triple Crown, Dombrowski said the individual honors won't affect their decision on whether to play him.
"Our primary concern with Miguel Cabrera is making sure he's healthy -- if he gets to that point, healthy," Dombrowski said. "If the doctor tells us he's in a position where he's making it worse by playing, we will not play him. As much as anybody would like to see him win the home run title, the RBI title, the Triple Crown, he's is playing for the good of the team.
"I've had that question from a number of people. Our goal is to make sure he is fine. Nobody has ever said to us that shutting him down for an extended period will make him better. He's made progress. He at times has tweaked his situation, but he continues to be day to day at this point. He has some good days, some bad days. Unfortunately, he's just done something to hurt himself, tweak it at times."
Tuiasosopo takes grounders in case of need at third
DETROIT -- Long before Matt Tuiasosopo emerged as a power-hitting outfielder in the Tigers' anti-lefty lineup, he was a corner infielder who played third base in Spring Training while Miguel Cabrera was at the World Baseball Classic. His summer made that easy to forget, but with Cabrera dealing with abdominal issues again, it's becoming fresh in Tigers' minds.
When the Tigers began batting practice Friday afternoon, Tuiasosopo took ground balls at the hot corner, charging slow rollers and ranging to either side on regular grounders. It was the most work he has had at third since Spring Training, he said.
"I haven't taken some in a while," Tuiasosopo said. "I just want to be prepared. Especially with how Miggy's feeling, you never know."
Manager Jim Leyland once called Tuiasosopo an emergency option at third base, but that was when Cabrera was healthy. With Cabrera now hobbled, Leyland is openly considering giving Tuiasosopo some playing time there, as he did in the late innings Thursday, once Cabrera had left and Don Kelly had been lifted for a pinch-hitter.
"We'll do what we have to do, that's all," Leyland said.
Tuiasosopo has played every infield position at least once in his Major League career, including two starts at shortstop in Seattle three years ago and five starts at second base a year before that. He has no problem moving back.
"I came up as an infielder. I'm comfortable playing in the infield," he said. "That's what I'd done my whole career until this year."
Dotel's season in question after exiting rehab outing
DETROIT -- The Tigers had been hoping to add Octavio Dotel to their bullpen as a September callup and postseason piece. After another bout of discomfort in his right arm, however, Dotel's season -- if not his career -- might be in question.
Dotel was pulled from his outing at Triple-A Toledo on Friday night with discomfort in his right forearm. According to the Toledo Blade, Dotel traveled back to Detroit on Saturday so that doctors could examine his arm.
The description of the injury is different than the elbow inflammation that landed him on the disabled list in April and has led to a slow rehab process to get back. Had he gotten through Friday's outing, he would've been in line for a promotion.
Instead, his status is now unknown, pending test results.
"I'm not really sure where that stands as we talk right now," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "We're still visiting on that situation. If he was healthy, he would have been with us as of Sept. 1, but right now, I do not know where that stands."
Dotel made the Opening Day roster and pitched for the Tigers in April before landing on the DL. The 39-year-old right-hander doesn't have to be activated by Sept. 1 to qualify for the postseason. If he ends the season on the disabled list, the Tigers can use his spot to add anyone in the organization as of Saturday night to their postseason roster. The replacement doesn't have to be a pitcher, and doesn't have to be on the 40-man roster by Sunday.
Luis Marte, added to the 60-day DL a month ago after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, allows the Tigers one replacement. If Dotel can't make it back, his spot would allow them another.
Dotel is in the final year of the contract he signed with the Tigers as a free agent before the 2012 season. He was a valuable part of last year's World Series team, which is why the Tigers picked up the option on his contract for 2013. He'll turn 40 in November.