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Detroit Tigers catcher Eric Haase wins award; Tarik Skubal, Eduardo Rodriguez updates

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 8/5/2022 Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press

This time, Detroit Tigers catcher Eric Haase wasn't mowing his lawn.

He was pushing his lawn mower across his backyard in early August 2021, when the organization called to inform Haase he had been named American League Rookie of the Month for July. One year later, the 29-year-old notched another award.

Haase — who grew up in Westland and now lives in Livonia — is the Tigers' winner of the 2022 Heart and Hustle Award, announced Thursday by the MLB Players Alumni Association. The MLB winner will be announced in mid-November on MLB Network.

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"It definitely means a lot. I like doing the work in the dark. I hope the fans see that when I go out there, I'm playing hard and want to win. The year hasn't gone anywhere near like how we imagined it, but hopefully, I'm here for a long time and can be part of righting the ship in the right direction."

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The Heart and Hustle Award, voted on before the All-Star break by former players, honors one player from each team for demonstrating passion on the field and embodying the values and traditions of the game.

As for Haase's production, he is batting .236 with eight doubles, eight home runs, 26 RBIs, 15 walks and 57 strikeouts in 69 games. Since June 2, he has posted a .276/.321/.496 slash line, including six homers, in 42 games (30 starts).

The Tigers are 42-65 this season — worst in the AL Central and third-worst in MLB — and despite several brutal losses, Haase can be found near his locker answering difficult questions about the team's poor performance, even when many of his teammates are nowhere to be seen.

"You're playing for your teammates, you're playing for yourself," Haase said. "For everyone in the locker room, this could be the last day that we're here. They could bring in a completely new front office. They could bring in a completely new coaching staff. They can replace our players any time they want to. The worst thing you can do is give up and quit on your guys. At the very least, you're doing it for yourself and trying to put that work in every day."

No Tiger has won the overall award, though two players — Torii Hunter (2011) and Josh Harrison (2014) — won it before joining the organization. The other overall winners: Roy Halladay (2010), Mike Trout (2012), Dustin Pedroia (2013), Anthony Rizzo (2015), Todd Frazier (2016), Brett Gardner (2017), Mookie Betts (2018), Howie Kendrick (2019) and Ozzie Albies (2021).

Last year, the Tigers' winner was Robbie Grossman.

"Who better to represent that reward than a hometown guy?" manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's beloved by the fans, but also by his teammates. He probably cherishes wearing our uniform as much as anybody in that room. We all do, but Haasey grew up going to Tiger Stadium and dreaming of being a Tiger.

"He represents us very well. He plays with such passion and joy. His career path has not been normal, and for him to achieve that, get recognized for the passion he brings to the field, is pretty remarkable."

Tarik Skubal ready to test arm

Left-hander Tarik Skubal (left arm fatigue) will restart his throwing program in a couple days, after refraining from throwing over the past few days to rest his arm. The Tigers put him on the 15-day injured list Wednesday, retroactive to Tuesday.

"There's not a ton of clarity on exact diagnosis," Hinch said.

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Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal delivers against the Minnesota Twins during the bottom of the first inning of a baseball game in Minneapolis, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. © Abbie Parr, AP Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal delivers against the Minnesota Twins during the bottom of the first inning of a baseball game in Minneapolis, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022.

As Skubal begins his throwing program, he will evaluate the feelings and sensations in his left arm. If the 25-year-old doesn't have any issues, he will be able to progress toward a return to the rotation this season. 

"There's a chance that this isn't very long," Hinch said. "There's also a chance that we're more conservative with him based on where he's at, where we're at and the reality of the season. Day-by-day, we're devising a plan, but as much as we've tested him, he still feels nothing."

Skubal has a 3.52 ERA with 32 walks and 117 strikeouts over 117⅔ innings in 21 starts. He exited Tuesday's start against the Minnesota Twins after five innings and 77 pitches due to arm fatigue.

"It didn't seem like it's that big of an issue, other than we're toward the end of a very long season talking about injuries," Hinch said, "and he's probably going to get the wrath of the conservative treatment based on how the season has gone."

Eduardo Rodriguez joins Flying Tigers

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (restricted list) is scheduled to pitch Saturday for Low-A Lakeland at Joker Marchant Stadium. The Flying Tigers will play the Dunedin Blue Jays, the Low-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Rodriguez is expected to throw three innings and 50 pitches.

"It's hard to get to 45-50 pitches in A-ball when you're a major-league pitcher," Hinch said. "Those guys go up there ready to swing. Hopefully, we'll be able to build some volume for him in A-ball and make sure that everything is in working order."

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After Saturday's start, Rodriguez is on track to transition to Triple-A Toledo for at least two starts. The Tigers think he can return to the majors — and be reinstated from the restricted list — at some point during the third week in August.

The 29-year-old has been at the Tigers' spring training facility in Lakeland since last Sunday. The club placed Rodriguez on the restricted list June 13.

"A minimum of three starts, probably a maximum of four if he needs it," Hinch said. "He's up and ready. He threw a couple different bullpens with our development people in Lakeland. All systems go for Saturday."

Derek Hill picked up by new team

The Seattle Mariners claimed outfielder Derek Hill off waivers Friday, after the 26-year-old was designated for assignment Monday while playing for Triple-A Toledo. The Mariners have assigned him to Triple-A Tacoma.

"We've talked about Derek over the last two years I've been here, and his contributions have been felt here," Hinch said. "He's still trying to find his way as a bonafide big leaguer, but he can impact a roster. I can see what they're doing. They've gone through a lot of injuries. It doesn't surprise me that they would take a shot at his skill set and see if he can help a contending team."

Hill has played 95 games for the Tigers, including 31 games in 2022 with a .229 batting average, five walks and 28 strikeouts in 31 games. For the Mud Hens, he batted .217 with nine walks and 32 strikeouts over 30 games in 2022.

The Tigers drafted Hill with the No. 23 overall pick in 2014.

Michael Pineda throws bullpen

Right-hander Michael Pineda (right triceps tightness) completed his first bullpen Thursday. The 33-year-old, who has been on the 15-day injured list since July 24, likely needs to throw a few more before the Tigers consider sending him out for a rehab assignment. 

Pineda threw fastballs and changeups only.

"He felt good, which is a good sign," Hinch said.

Pineda has a 5.27 ERA with six walks and 23 strikeouts over 42⅔ innings in 10 starts this season. This is his second stint on the injured list, with the other taking place from May 15-July 1 due to a fractured right middle finger.

Pitcher suspended

Right-handed pitcher Elvin Valerio, a 19-year-old in the Dominican Summer League, has been suspended 60 games without pay for testing positive for performance-enhancing substances. He was one of five players MLB announced suspensions for Friday.

Valerio tested positive for Stanozolol and GW501516.

He has a 6.27 ERA with 10 walks and 19 strikeouts over 18⅔ innings in 10 games (four starts). The Tigers signed Valerio to a minor-league contract in March 2022 as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic.

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.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers catcher Eric Haase wins award; Tarik Skubal, Eduardo Rodriguez updates

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