Word filtered out on Thursday that the Tigers had optioned left-fielder Mikie Mahtook to Triple-A Toledo. With the move coming after a game in which starter Jordan Zimmermann was knocked out of it by a line drive to the jaw in the first inning, and which then saw a parade of multi-inning relief appearances, it seemed likely that the Tigers would bring up an arm. Anthony Fenech of the Free Press reports that left-hander Chad Bell has been recalled from Toledo to take Mahtook’s space on the 25-man roster.
Both Daniel Norris and Daniel Stumpf pitched in Thursday’s game, and so it makes some sense to add a left-hander to the bullpen in the short term. However, it’s somewhat surprising for the Tigers to choose Bell over Blaine Hardy until you realize that Hardy would have to be added to the 40-man roster after clearing waivers in late March. So for a short term move, Bell does make some sense just to get another arm in the mix through the weekend.
Mahtook had struggled throughout most of Grapefruit League play this spring, and it hasn’t gone any better in the regular season so far. Mahtook has just four hits in 35 PA on the young season. Still, these are extremely small samples, and it’s a bit surprising to see Mahtook go down instead of JaCoby Jones. Either way, both Victor Reyes and Jones have had little opportunity to play, which does nothing for their development. With playing time opened up in left field they should see more action.
Mikie Mahtook did a nice job for the Tigers in 2017, but he isn’t a notable player, and probably isn’t going to play any part in a future rebuilt contender. Ron Gardenhire commented on how much he hated having to break the news of his demotion. The choice may be a front office directive designed to finally see what Reyes and Jones have to offer. Else they could’ve optioned Jones, who really needs the plate appearances, to Toledo instead. In the meantime, Mahtook will hopefully get himself on track against Triple-A pitching, and it seems likely we’ll see him again in the not too distant future.