CLEVELAND -- Ramon Santiago returned to winter ball this past offseason trying to get his bat going. He spent extra time this spring working with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. He has put in a lot of time in the batting cage and in early batting practice. Nothing seemed to work.
Finally, now that the Tigers need him the most, he's swinging like a Major League player. If there's any silver lining to Omar Infante's injury, it's the regular at-bats that allowed Santiago to get going.
"The more you play, the more you get better timing," Santiago said. "This game is about timing."
Santiago went 2-for-5 with a double in Thursday's series finale at Toronto, then opened Detroit's scoring Friday against the Indians with a two-out, two-run single through the middle in the second. He went 0-for-4 Saturday, but reached on an error and scored a run.
His bat, which looked late on most fastballs when the season began, is quicker now. Santiago said he choked up on the bat at McClendon's suggestion to get to pitches quicker.
Santiago was back in Detroit's lineup Sunday, hitting ninth. Though Infante is walking normally now, his bruised left shin no longer an issue after Colby Rasmus' takeout slide Wednesday, his ankle is still giving him trouble. He's still a day or two away from playing again.
Tigers place Downs on DL, recall Reed from Toledo
CLEVELAND -- The Tigers had to scramble to make a last-minute move in their bullpen Sunday morning, placing left-hander Darin Downs on the 15-day disabled list with left rotator cuff tendinitis.
On most road trips, the Tigers would've had to go a man short in their bullpen for a day before a replacement could arrive. In this case, with Triple-A Toledo down the highway from Cleveland, they recalled right-hander Evan Reed and got him to Progressive Field in time for the game.
Downs reported soreness in his shoulder after pitching the ninth inning of Saturday's 9-4 win. He gave up two runs on two hits, including a home run, with a strikeout. His velocity appeared to be normal.
"I was suspicious of it yesterday," manager Jim Leyland said. "I mean, you don't bounce that many balls in the dirt unless something's not right. It's just not exactly right. When a guy's as wild as he was yesterday, you better make sure you check to see if he's all right."
Downs has been on a roller-coaster ride in the Tigers' bullpen over the past month and a half. He made only one appearance in a three-week stretch from May 24 to June 14, then pitched five times in 11 days while Tigers starters struggled with early exits. He had settled into a more regular routine over the last week or so and appeared to be healthy.
Downs has allowed 19 earned runs on 36 hits over 33 innings, walking 10 and striking out 37. The two runs Saturday pushed his ERA to 5.18.
Catching prospect McCann gets Futures Game call
CLEVELAND -- James McCann's season at Double-A Erie lifted him from a well-regarded defensive catcher in the Tigers' system to a legitimate catching prospect. Now it has landed him in the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game.
McCann was added to the U.S. Team on Saturday to replace White Sox catching prospect Josh Phegley, whom Chicago promoted to the big leagues on Friday. The move gives the Tigers two players in the Futures Game for the third consecutive year. Triple-A Toledo first baseman Jordan Lennerton was the lone Tigers farmhand on the initial rosters.
McCann was Detroit's top pick out of Arkansas two years ago in the First-Year Player Draft and split last season between Erie and Class A Lakeland. He threw out 49 of 113 would-be basestealers for a 43 percent caught-stealing rate, but struggled to make the jump at the plate, batting just .200 at Erie after hitting .288 in A-ball.
His offense this year has been a revelation of sorts, with a .288 average and a .703 OPS to go with 15 doubles, three home runs and 36 RBIs. One American League scout who scouted the SeaWolves recently said McCann has gotten stronger and has raw power potential to go with average.
Defensively, manager Jim Leyland said, "he can catch and throw in the big leagues right now."
McCann is the Tigers' 11th-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com.
Leyland proud of Prince's heads-up double play
CLEVELAND -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland talked like a proud manager Sunday morning about the double play Prince Fielder turned Saturday afternoon. When Fielder tagged the lead runner standing on first base before he touched the bag, he got right what Boston's Dustin Pedroia mixed up last month at Comerica Park.
"Every now and then in Spring Training, we discuss a rule before we start our day's work," Leyland said. "And that was one of the rules we discussed. It's kind of neat when something like that happens, because then the players don't just think, 'What the heck are we discussing something like this for?' And here it's happened a couple times. It makes you feel good."
It wasn't abundantly clear whether Fielder remembered that. He did pause for a few seconds between tagging the runner and stepping on the base.
Still, he'll accept credit.
"It's knowledge of the game, man. Knowing of the game," Fielder said with a smile. "I got lucky."
• Torii Hunter became the fourth Tiger in the past 10 years to fall a single shy of the cycle Saturday. Magglio Ordonez did it in 2008 and '10. Carlos Pena did it in '03.
• Triple-A Toledo outfielder Ben Guez was selected as the Tigers' Minor League Player of the Month for June after batting .324 (34-for-105) with 20 runs, seven doubles, six homers and 24 RBIs in 26 games. Class A Lakeland's Jeff Ferrell and West Michigan's Jordan John shared Pitcher of the Month honors.