LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers outfielder Matt Vierling suffered a right knee strain earlier this week.
The organization did not provide a timetable for his return to games, but considering he is returning to baseball activities over the weekend, the 26-year-old seems unlikely to miss significant time in spring training as long as he makes progress in his return -to-play program.
“It was over the Fort Myers trip (Sunday and Monday) when I first heard about it,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said.
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After tests, Vierling was diagnosed with a mild posterior knee muscle strain. The Tigers acquired him (with two others) in the offseason from the Philadelphia Phillies for Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens.
He is hitting .467 (7-for-15) with two home runs, one walk and one strikeout across six games in spring training. He has received 14 innings in center field, 10 innings in right field and five innings in left field.
Vierling projects as an Opening Day starter in the outfield.
Tyler Nevin’s oblique strain
Infielder Tyler Nevin, who plays third base and first base, has been sidelined indefinitely with a left oblique strain. The Tigers did not reveal the grade of the strain or a timetable for his return to games, only announcing it as a “mild” strain.
Nevin, 25, will start baseball activities once his symptoms subside.
He hit .211 (4-for-19) with two home runs, zero walks and four strikeouts across seven games in spring training, getting 21 innings at first base, 13 innings at third base and five innings in left field.
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The oblique strain almost certainly puts Nevin out of the mix for a spot on the Opening Day roster, as the regular season begins in 20 days. Before the injury, Nevin was strongly in the mix for a spot on the roster.
The Tigers would benefit a right-handed hitter to platoon with Nick Maton, a left-handed hitter, at third base.
“It changes the playing time for a few guys,” Hinch said. “I’m more disappointed for them because it’s reps that were wide open for guys. We’ll get him back whenever we can get him back.”
An opportunity for the taking
There are other right-handed hitting infielders competing for a job: Andre Lipcius, Andy Ibáñez, Ryan Kreidler and Zack Short. It could be a two-horse race between Lipcius and Ibáñez.
Both Lipcius and Ibáñez can play first base.
“Lipcius has probably been the biggest beneficiary of Nevin’s reps,” Hinch said, “but that happens all the time.”
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Ibáñez, who sprained his left ring finger during an exhibition game with Team Cuba, does not have a fracture and will be evaluated by the Tigers once he returns from the World Baseball Classic. Hinch doesn’t expect Ibáñez to play in the first round of the tournament.
Team Cuba has a 1-2 record with one game remaining in the first round.
“His timeline to come back will obviously be based on Cuba advancing or not advancing,” Hinch said.
César Hernández, who signed a minor-league contract, looks like a fit for the Opening Day roster because of his veteran presence, switch-hit ability and sharp defense, but he has played two innings at third base compared to 38 innings at second base so far in spring training.
Fellow second baseman Jonathan Schoop, coming off a career-worst season, is competing for Team Netherlands in the WBC. He is batting .143 (1-for-7) with zero walks and two strikeouts through two games.
The Tigers made their second round of roster cuts Friday morning.
Right-handed pitcher Reese Olson and infielder Wenceel Perez were optioned to Triple-A Toledo, while right-handers Angel De Jesus and Brenan Hanifee and catcher/first baseman Mario Feliciano were reassigned to minor-league camp.
There are 54 players remaining in MLB spring training.
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“We can bring them back whenever,” Hinch said of Olson and Perez. “If it works out with their schedule, and we can get them some action in big-league camp, we will. We’re not going to alter their schedules to accomplish that, but we will talk about what their schedules are like. The key is not to get into a major-league spring training game, but if it works out, and we can reward their rehab work with an appearance here, then that’d be great.”
Contact Evan Petzold at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers’ Matt Vierling suffers knee strain; Tyler Nevin out