MINNEAPOLIS — Austin Meadows swung from a pitching machine at Target Field. For the first time in his rehab process, his training transitioned into running exercises on level ground, which he performed without pain.
The Detroit Tigers hope Meadows can return this season.
“Baby steps,” said manager AJ Hinch. “We’re getting a little better and he’s doing a little more.”
Meadows, who has not played in MLB since June 15, joined the Tigers for the three-game series against the Minnesota Twins and is expected to stay with the big league club until he begins a rehab stint . Before that happens, Meadows needs to make progress in his running program and avoid setbacks.
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“The next step is to get to the bases and move on from there,” Meadows said.
The 2022 season was nothing but a try for Meadows and his health, dealing with a sinus infection, an inner ear infection, dizziness, COVID-19, right and left Achilles strains and general aches and pains.
As of May 6, Meadows has played in 14 of the Tigers’ 79 games.
“We still don’t have an answer as to how it happened,” Meadows said of the simultaneous strain on both Achilles tendons. “It could simply be because more grass or different studs are being played. You could ask yourself all day. It is what it is and we must move forward and prevent this from happening again.”
Before joining the Tigers, Meadows had been at the team’s spring training facility in Lakeland, Florida since the All-Star hiatus. The Tigers sent him to Lakeland after he dropped his rehab assignment on July 11 due to persistent pain in his legs.
He last played for Triple-A Toledo on July 7th.
“It was frustrating,” Meadows said. “I’ve never had anything like this before. It’s a rare injury, a rare thing. We got in touch with the right doctors to find out what’s going on and how it’s going. I’m just happy to be here and taking the next step.”
At one point, Meadows was worried he wouldn’t be returning until 2023.
“You definitely have those thoughts,” Meadows said. “But you just have to keep pushing and keep fighting. When you’re hurt you just want to be out there with the guys. When you’re not playing and you’re not on the team, it’s really hard. You just want to be around them and help them. It’s been a tough time. It was a learning and growing process but I had a good support system around me. It will make me stronger.
The Andrew Chafin situation
The market for left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin is heating up, with the New York Mets — Chris Bassitt, the team’s close friend for whom Chafin plays — as one of many teams interested in buying him before Tuesday’s 6:00 p.m clock to buy.
Chafin is not vaccinated.
The 32-year-old returned to the Tigers on Monday after being suspended for Thursday-Sunday’s four-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto. He cannot enter Canada due to the country’s vaccination requirement.
“We will cross this bridge when we get there,” Chafin said, speaking about his vaccination status for the second time in the past week. “I’ll do what I have to do. But if I (don’t) have to, then I won’t do it. I suppose that answers your question.”
Chafin signed a two-year, $13 million deal in March. He has a player option for the 2023 season. If the Tigers retain Chafin, he will likely exercise his player option.
“I have to be ready to pitch tonight,” Chafin said. “That was it. There’s no use worrying about things that are completely out of my control. When the phone rings for me, I go to the pitch. … It’s always in the back of my mind. You always will ask yourself. You’ll think about it, but it doesn’t matter. You have no control over it.”
Winning Derek Hill
Chafin’s reinstatement from the blacklist forced the Tigers to make roster changes in the 26-man and 40-man rosters.
Outfielder Derek Hill, No. 23 overall in 2014, was selected for action and cleared a spot on the 40-man roster, while right-hander Angel De Jesus was selected to Triple-A Toledo for an opening on the 26 to create. men list.
“The decisions get harder and harder as the guys get well on the 60-day injured list,” Hinch said. “(Matt Manning) will be back tomorrow. It’s going to be a little awkward for some of the guys that have been here.”
If Hill declines the waivers, meaning the other 29 teams decline to include him in the 40-man roster, he can choose to remain with the organization or become a free agent. He will be a minor league free agent this offseason.
The 26-year-old hit .217 with nine walks and 32 strikeouts for the Mud Hens this season.
Hill has a .240 batting average with nine stolen bases in 12 attempts in 95 games in splits of three MLB seasons. He played 31 games for the Tigers in 2022, batting .229 with five walks and 28 strikeouts.
“We’ll see where Derek gets in his career,” Hinch said. “He’s an incredible athlete and someone who helped us. We hope he stays with the organization but that’s the cost of doing business when you get well.”
Javier Báez sits bench
Shortstop Javier Báez did not start Monday’s series opener against the Twins. In Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, he hit a solo home run and had two errors — for an MLB leader of 15 errors.
For the first time since April, Hinch started utility player Willi Castro at a shortstop.
“These are the guys we’re going to play against today,” said Hinch. “Javy is very available (off the bench). This is the group we think we should be playing today.”