Castellanos improving, but return a ways off

Tigers 3B has X-rays on hand; Maybin takes BP, while Fulmer gets pushed back

Castellanos improving, but return a ways off

DETROIT -- Nick Castellanos' injured left hand is progressing, according to tests, but the Tigers' third baseman remains a ways off from being able to swing a bat, let alone return to game action.

Castellanos, who went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 7 with a fracture of his fifth metacarpal of his left hand, underwent an X-rays Friday to check the progress. While there's healing, there's not enough for him to be cleared to grab a bat and do anything hitting-wise. Nor is he in shape to take ground balls.

So for now, Castellanos continues to do cardio workouts and other activity to keep the rest of his body in shape to pick up workouts quickly once he's cleared for more baseball work.

"I think at this point it's what he can tolerate," manager Brad Ausmus said before Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Red Sox. "I can't give you a long-term projection."

When Castellanos suffered the injury on a hit-by-pitch, the Tigers announced he'd be out at least four weeks. General manager Al Avila said earlier this week they're expecting a longer time frame now. Sunday marks the two-week point since Castellanos went on the DL.

"Four [weeks] is probably too short," Avila said, "and we're hoping seven [weeks] is too much."

That would put a Castellanos return closer to mid-September. It's unclear what impact the Tigers' situation in the American League playoff picture might play on that, though if the Tigers fall well out of contention, they could have reason to play it more cautious.

Maybin begins batting practice

A storm system trekking across Michigan on Saturday afternoon forced the Tigers to take batting practice in their indoor cages. That worked well for injured center fielder Cameron Maybin, who was cleared to take batting practice with the team.

Maybin slides to make the catch

It was a big step for Maybin, who went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 9 (retroactive to Aug. 4) with a sprained left thumb. He began hitting off a tee two days ago. The progression also puts Maybin on track to be ready for next weekend's series against the Angels, as Ausmus is hoping.

Andrew Romine made his fourth consecutive start in center field Saturday. Meanwhile, free-agent center fielder Carlos Gomez -- released by the Astros earlier this month -- agreed to terms to join the Rangers, who just lost right fielder Shin-Soo Choo to a fractured forearm. Ausmus said last week that the Tigers weren't considering outside replacements unless Maybin had a setback that kept him out longer than expected.

Fulmer to pitch next weekend

The Tigers' innings conservation plan with rookie righty Michael Fulmer will push back his next start until Friday or Saturday, Ausmus said, giving him an extra day or two of rest.

Fulmer gave up six runs over 5 2/3 innings against the Red Sox on Friday. His turn would have come up Thursday at Minnesota if the Tigers kept everybody in order. However, the club can wait until Saturday before needing a fifth starter. The Tigers face the Angels next weekend at Comerica Park.

The Tigers hope to use scheduled off-days to push back Fulmer when possible and slow a pace that would have him reaching a 25-30 percent increase in innings from last year before the regular season ends. Detroit could also use starters returning from injury, notably Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey, to push back or even skip Fulmer for a turn.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.