TOLEDO, Ohio — The Detroit Tigers very likely will call up six minor leaguers when rosters are allowed to expand on Sept. 1.
Four of them should be current Toledo Mud Hens who have been up with the Tigers in 2013 or 2014: middle infielder Hernan Perez, outfielder Tyler Collins, right-handed reliever Justin Miller and one of two other right-handed relievers, Melvin Mercedes or Evan Reed.
The other two likely call-ups are highly-anticipated prospects awaiting major league debuts: catcher James McCann and right fielder Steven Moya.
Moya is tearing up the Double-A Eastern League for the Erie SeaWolves, batting .271 with 33 homers and 98 RBI. He strikes out way too much, with 150 in 487 at-bats, and needs some defensive refinement. But Moya can hit the ball a country mile and supply left-handed power off the bench.
McCann is hitting .301 with 33 doubles, six homers and 53 RBI for the Mud Hens. He’s a solid right-handed hitter, and also a strong defensive catcher who calls a good game and is second in the International League with a 42-percent throw-out rate on stolen base attempts.
"I think he can help right now," said Toledo manager Larry Parrish. "I’d expect him to get a chance to go up in September."
Perez is an intriguing player because he has the potential to challenge rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez for playing time. Suarez has cooled off drastically at bat, and is making erratic plays in the field. Perez is batting .287 with 31 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 53 RBI.
"I think (Perez) has gotten much better at playing shortstop," Parrish said. "He’s getting to the ball and playing through it. He’d gotten used to playing second base. He just needed some work. And he’s getting to know himself better (offensively) by getting in the right position and attacking the ball better so he can drive it."
Collins is batting .266 with 12 steals, 18 homers and 59 RBI. However, the left-handed slugger also strikes out once in every four at-bats.
"He’s still learning himself and learning his swing," Parrish said, "but he’s putting up some good homer and RBI numbers. But he strikes out and has a lot of inconsistency."
Andy Dirks, who has had his 20-day rehabilitation assignment with Toledo and Lakeland interrupted three times, has not played in over one week for Toledo and shows no sign of returning because of a hamstring injury. Collins should be his replacement as a September call-up.
Adding at least two pitchers is a necessity for the Tigers, whose bullpen has been running on fumes lately.
Miller, with a 1.71 ERA and 0.93 WHIP, is a virtual certainty for Detroit.
"He’s got enough stuff to pitch in the big leagues," said Parrish. "It’s about understanding his stuff. His stuff is good, but not overpowering. If you are going to pitch up there, it’s about location, location, location."
Right-handed relievers Reed, Mercedes and Jose Ortega are possibilities along with left-hander Ian Krol — who had a solid role in Detroit’s bullpen before his effectiveness disappeared.
"He’s got to hit his spots and not just throw strikes," Parrish said of Krol.
Reed also was solid early in the season for the Tigers before his earned run average soared.
"It’s the same thing for him," Parrish said. "It’s about command, keeping the angle and keeping it down."
Ortega would be in Detroit already if not for his penchant for walks with 34 walks in 55 innings.
"He’s a scout’s dream," Parrish said. "He throws 97-98 (mph) with that splitter and slider. But he can’t pitch and has trouble controlling his emotions. He thinks harder is better."
Mercedes, who has a 4.63 ERA for the Mud Hens and got hit hard Saturday night by the Louisville Bats, was sharp in two scoreless innings for Detroit in his recent big league debut.
"He’s worked hard all year on his slider and changeup," said Parrish. "He’s getting the break on the slider and action on the change. But a good hitter can read his delivery. He has improved a whole lot this year, but is just not the finished product."
Neither McCann nor Reed is on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, and recalling them would require dropping somebody off it such as rapidly-declining reliever Chad Smith of Erie. Starter Drew VerHagen could be called up as a formality and then placed on the 60-day disabled list with his back injury to free up one spot.
Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said there’s no desire by the team to turn the "clubhouse into a sardine can," but as many as a half dozen reinforcements are coming soon to the Tigers.