Positioning

Here's when Detroit Tigers think outfielder Austin Meadows will return from vertigo – Detroit Free Press

future-dyanmics

The Detroit Tigers recently didn’t know when they would see outfielder Austin Meadows again.
He hasn’t played since May 15 due to vertigo symptoms.
But Meadows traveled Tuesday to meet with Triple-A Toledo and will begin his rehab assignment Wednesday for the Mud Hens in Columbus, Ohio. He is expected to return to the Tigers for the upcoming road trip, meaning he could be back as soon as Friday against the New York Yankees.
“He’s ready to go,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday.
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Meadows, acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays before Opening Day, spent the past week building up his strength and endurance in Lakeland, Florida, home of the Tigers’ spring training facility.
“He’s had zero symptoms for a number of days,” Hinch said.
The 27-year-old completed drills in Lakeland, including base-running, batting practice, hitting off the curveball machine and hitting off the velocity machine. He passed his final base-running test Monday, sparking the Tigers’ decision to jumpstart his rehab assignment.
“He’s going to need a few games to get back in the swing of things,” Hinch said, “but best case scenario for us would be sometime on this road trip.”
Meadows is hitting .267 with 12 walks and 14 strikeouts in 28 games for the Tigers this season. He was the team’s most consistent hitter before landing on the injured list May 16.
Left-hander Tyler Alexander (left elbow sprain) logged his first rehab start for Triple-A Toledo on Monday, allowing five runs on six hits and one walk with two strikeouts in three innings against Triple-A Columbus.
He threw 36 of 51 pitches for strikes.
“He wasn’t synched up a ton,” Hinch said. “He had a couple bad changeups. But he looked better on video than he looked the last time I saw him in person, from a throwing standpoint.”
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Alexander needed 28 pitches for three outs in the second inning, when all five runs were scored against him, including a two-run home run from Bryan Lavastida, who made his MLB debut for the Cleveland Guardians earlier this season.
“He had a rough second inning,” Hinch said, “but 50-plus pitches, which was good.”
Alexander, 27, will make his next rehab start Saturday in Columbus. 
“We’ll most likely extend him out a little bit further,” Hinch said. “After that outing, we’ve got to decide whether we’re going to taper back to the bullpen or stretch him out to 90-plus pitches. Health-wise, he was really good.”
The Tigers’ current starting rotation features Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo, Beau Brieske, Elvin Rodriguez and Rony García.
Alexander started four games this season, posting an 8.76 ERA, before he went to the injured list May 2. He primarily served as a reliever in 2021, starting 15 of his 41 appearances.
Outfielder Riley Greene — the No. 2 prospect in baseball — played in his first rehab game for Toledo on Monday. The 21-year-old finished 1-for-4, reaching safely on an infield single that bounced up the middle. 
Right-handed reliever Will Vest, recovered from COVID-19, also pitched for Toledo on Monday in his lone rehab appearance. He returned to Comerica Park on Tuesday and will be activated Wednesday.
The 26-year-old pitched a scoreless fourth inning for the Mud Hens, throwing all 10 pitches for strikes. He worked around a leadoff single from David Fry with a swinging strikeout and back-to-back groundouts.
“Will Vest was very good,” Hinch said.
The Tigers are counting on Vest to pitch Wednesday, considering Tuesday’s doubleheader at Comerica Park will exhaust the active members of the bullpen. Vest has a 2.12 ERA with four walks and 22 strikeouts across 17 innings in 14 games.
“Timing-wise, we’re fortunate that he’s going to be ready to go,” Hinch said. “He probably has the best chance to pitch on the day that he’s activated of anybody that comes off of any injured list, given how today is likely to go with how many pitchers we’ll use.”
Right-hander Casey Mize played catch Monday morning in Lakeland, beginning his second throwing program while on the injured list. The 25-year-old has been sidelined since April 15 with a right elbow sprain.
“He felt great, which is a good sign,” Hinch said. “He’s had some time off, so you never know how it’s going to go, but he reported no issues whatsoever. We’ll increase intensity and volume to extend him out.
“The big test will be a week or 10 days from now, when he’s fully out to long toss — they call those pulldowns — and really extensive throwing. But you got to start somewhere.”
After Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Tigers shifted Mize to the 60-day injured list to open a spot on the 40-man roster.
First base coach Gary Jones, hit in the leg with a foul ball in the third inning of Sunday’s game, will not coach first base for four to six weeks because of an ankle fracture. 
The 61-year-old is wearing an Aircast walking boot.
“He’s still going to do his in-game activities with the outfield positioning,” Hinch said. “He’ll be a part of everything except for the first base responsibilities. … Right now, the only thing that really changes is the first base in-game responsibilities. Everything else is the same.”
Assistant hitting coach Mike Hessman, who replaced Jones at first base for Monday’s 7-5 win, will stay at first base for now, but Hinch said he could “make a change” at that spot.
Utility player Kody Clemens, the Tigers’ No. 17 prospect, is scheduled to make his MLB debut in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins. His parents, Roger and Debra, will be in attendance at Comerica Park.
Clemens, 26, will play second base.
“I’m just trying to get Kody his first start at his most natural position,” Hinch said, “and then he may not play second base again.”
To open the door for Clemens at second base, Jonathan Schoop will serve as the designated hitter. Miguel Cabrera, the designated hitter for Game 1, will not play in Game 2, as he returns from lower back tightness.
“I’m not going to have him play, and then sit, and then fire him back up again,” Hinch said of Cabrera, hitting .294 in 40 games. “I’m just hopeful he gets through the first game well.”
Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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