Tigers infielder Kody Clemens goes fields ground balls during Detroit Tigers spring training on Monday, March 14, 2022, at TigerTown in Lakeland, Florida.

Kody Clemens joins Detroit Tigers for MLB debut; Robbie Grossman to IL

The Detroit Tigers have called up Kody Clemens for his MLB debut.

A roster spot for Clemens, a left-handed hitter and versatile defender, opened Monday morning, when the Tigers decided to place outfielder Robbie Grossman on the 10-day injured list with a neck strain.

The Tigers plan to primarily use Clemens against right-handed pitchers.

“We don’t need him to be superman,” manager A.J. Hinch said before Monday’s game at Comerica Park against the Minnesota Twins. “He’s not the answer to all of our problems, but this is an opportunity for him to elbow his way into the big leagues for the first time, and he’s earned that. … He’s performed his way here.”

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Clemens, the son of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens, is the Tigers’ No. 17 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The Tigers drafted Clemens in the third round, No. 79 overall, in the 2018 draft.

For Triple-A Toledo, Clemens hit .283 with nine doubles, six triples, eight home runs, 31 RBIs, 10 walks and 52 strikeouts in 45 games. The 26-year-old has played second base (17 starts), third base (11 starts), left field (10 starts) and first base (seven starts).

“If he can come up and do what he’s done in Triple-A, it’ll be a nice boost for us and a nice addition to the lineup,” Hinch said. “It’s going to create some crazy defensive alignments. Replacing Robbie, who’s all outfield, with an infielder is a challenge, but his bat is what got him here.”

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His primary position, second base, is occupied by Jonathan Schoop, which means Clemens will get most of his MLB playing time at first base, third base and at the corner outfield spots.

Without Grossman, utility player Harold Castro will get more reps in the outfield, and fellow utility player Willi Castro — a recent mainstay in left field — will receive some starts in right field.

“You’ll see some creative options,” Hinch said.

The Tigers considered calling up Clemens at least twice this season, but the organization went with other options on the 40-man roster. Clemens joined the Tigers’ 40-man roster last November.

Clemens, on his way to Columbus, Ohio, when he learned of his promotion, showed up to Comerica Park around noon for Monday’s 1:10 p.m. game, so he will be available off the bench.

He is expected to start Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve been very careful with when we’re going to call him up,” Hinch said. “Putting him on the bench makes you feel better, but it might not make you any closer to winning. But his name has been tossed around a couple different times. Now, we’re going to force him into the lineup.”

The timetable for Grossman’s return is unclear. Grossman, 32, is hitting .199 with a .241 slugging percentage, 21 walks and 51 strikeouts in 42 games. He experienced neck spasms in the batting cage before Sunday’s game, tried to play through the pain and was replaced in the lineup after one plate appearance.

“He’s no better, which is the main issue,” Hinch said. “We can’t play short (a roster spot). This IL placement is part symptoms, because he can’t turn his neck. … We needed to make an aggressive move, but he can’t function. That’s the main issue.”

Miguel Cabrera needs ‘one more day’

Designated hitter Miguel Cabrera — missing from Sunday’s and Monday’s starting lineup — felt healthy enough to play Monday, but the Tigers chose to give him an extra day of rest.

The 39-year-old left Saturday’s game with lower back tightness but won’t need a stint on the injured list.

“Miguel is in great spirits,” Hinch said. “He’ll move around a little bit and do a little bit more than he did yesterday. Maybe he’s available for a late-inning pinch-hit, maybe not, but we’ll see as we go.”

Cabrera, a 20-year MLB veteran, is hitting .294 with six doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs, 10 walks and 42 strikeouts in 40 games.

His 113 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) paces all Tigers with at least 110 plate appearances, and is followed by Spencer Torkelson (80), Grossman (71), Jeimer Candelario (70), Javier Báez (57) and Jonathan Schoop (44).

Key players in Lakeland

Outfielder Austin Meadows hasn’t put on his Tigers jersey since May 15, but the 27-year-old appears to be on his way back after he landed on the injured list May 16 with vertigo.

Meadows, currently doing baseball activities in Lakeland, Florida, could begin a rehab assignment as soon as Wednesday.

The Tigers will benefit from his bat returning to the lineup, considering he is hitting .267 with 12 walks and 14 strikeouts in 28 games. The Tigers acquired Meadows on April 5 in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Right-hander Casey Mize, sidelined since April 15 with a right elbow sprain, played catch Monday morning in Lakeland, thus beginning his second throwing program since the Tigers placed him on the injured list.

The first throwing program was nixed after Mize’s rehab start May 12 for Triple-A Toledo. He recorded just two outs in the first inning on 29 pitches, allowing three runs on four hits and one hit batter.

Riley Greene to Mud Hens

The Tigers transferred outfielder Riley Greene’s rehab assignment Monday from Low-A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo. The 21-year-old went 2-for-6 with two RBIs, one walk and one stolen base in two games for the Flying Tigers.

After taking Sunday off, Greene will be in Monday’s lineup for the Mud Hens. He is scheduled to play Monday, Wednesday and Thursday against the Columbus Clippers in Columbus, Ohio.

Toledo does not have a game Tuesday.

Greene — the No. 5 overall pick in the 2019 draft — is the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and the No. 2 prospect in baseball. He played 11 games in spring training, hitting .421 with seven extra-base hits, including two home runs, before fracturing his foot April 1 on a foul ball.

Leadoff hitter Harold Castro

Harold Castro, for the first time this season and the eighth time in his career, batted leadoff for the Tigers on Monday against Twins right-hander Dylan Bundy. Castro, 28, entered the game hitting .636 (7-for-11) with three home runs in his past three games.

“Harold is swinging the bat as well as anyone,” Hinch said. “I want him to get as many at-bats against right-handed pitching as we can.”

Hinch believes the Twins will bring in left-handed reliever Caleb Thielbar to face Castro at some point in Monday’s game. Castro has fared well against both righties and lefties in 2022, but he is better against righties (.306 batting average) than lefties (.231) in his career.

Castro, a five-year MLB veteran, is hitting .325 with four doubles, one triple, four home runs, nine RBIs, two walks and 14 strikeouts in 27 games this season.

“For me, Harold getting the most at-bats is really key,” Hinch said. “It’s not your standard on-base guy. It’s not the guy who’s going to run the bases and create havoc like others on our roster. Nobody on our team is swinging the bat, bat to ball on the barrel, better than Harold.”

Gary Jones on mend

First base coach Gary Jones took a foul ball off his leg in the third inning Sunday. Although Jones is with the Tigers, assistant hitting coach Mike Hessman will take his place as the first base coach for Monday’s game.

“Gary’s ankle is pretty swollen, and it’s pretty rough,” Hinch said. “We’ll see how he is as the series goes on, but Hess will go over to first.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.


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