By Will Burchfield
A sweaty Nick Castellanos, breathing heavily, sat down at his locker in the Detroit Tigers’ clubhouse. Before he even had time to remove his headphones, a swarm of reporters rushed his way. They wanted to know what he’d been doing, how he was feeling, when he might be returning.
The star third baseman has been out since August 7 with a broken left hand.
Castellanos, tired of answering the same questions, tired of sitting out, dropped his headphones around his neck and tried to remain patient.
He had been fielding groundballs, he said, his second time doing so in the past two days. He had swung earlier in the day, he said, this time against underhand pitching.
But wait — had he done that yet?
“It was my first day hitting a moving ball,” he clarified.
The exchange continued in this stilted, stop-and-go manner, until Castellanos was asked when he might return.
“My goal is to be back before the 18th,” he said.
The Tigers instructional league begins on that date in Florida. Castellanos has no intention of going south.
That gives him nine days, at most, to prepare himself for game action. He doesn’t expect to make a full recovery within that time frame, but he figures the pain in his hand will subside enough for him to play.
“That’s pretty much where it is right now,” he said.
Brad Ausmus said the Tigers are planning for Castellanos to take batting practice on the field on Monday. After that, and assuming all goes well, they would like to put him in a simulation game.
“We’ll see how he progresses,” Ausmus said.
A rehab assignment to Toledo is out of the question as the Mud Hens season ended on Sept. 5.
With each day that passes, Castellanos grows antsier to return. The Tigers are in the thick of a playoff race and their starting third baseman is desperate to dive in.
“Every game I want to play, so it sucks that I can’t,” he said.
So he’s given himself a return date, the pain be damned.