Detroit Tigers' Jeimer Candelario's season ends with back injury; Christin Stewart returns

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers' first baseman Jeimer Candelario's comeback campaign is over with three scheduled games remaining in the shortened season.

He was placed on the 10-day injured list Friday with lower back tightness, meaning he won't be eligible to return before the Tigers' final game, either Sunday or Monday. 

Interim manager Lloyd McClendon said that because "back stiffness can lead into something else that could be a major problem," the Tigers decided to shut him down.

"We just felt it was the right thing to do to protect him," McClendon said Friday. 

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[ Detroit Tigers can't qualify for 2020 playoffs. Can they lose enough to get 2021 top pick? ]

Detroit Tigers first baseman Jeimer Candelario, right, tags out Minnesota Twins' Marwin Gonzalez on a ground ball in the fourth inning Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Minneapolis.

Candelario left Thursday's game against the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning. His back tightened up throughout the night, leading to issues with  his movement. McClendon said the injury occurred Wednesday.

"I think he lunged at a bag or dove back into a bag, one of those two plays," McClendon said. "Started to aggravate (him) a little bit. Obviously worked on it before the game (Thursday), tried to get him loose. He thought he could go."

[ Why Detroit Tigers' Jeimer Candelario found his swing in August ]

His year ends with a .297 batting average, seven home runs and 29 RBIs across 52 games. Of eligible players, he led the Tigers with a .369 on-base percentage and .503 slugging percentage (11 doubles, three triples).

The Tigers started utility player Harold Castro at first base in Candelario's absence Friday.

Candelario went 0-for-17 in July but surged from Aug. 2 through Sept. 16, producing a .372 average (54-for-145). He was 1-for-23 in his final seven games. He transitioned from third base to first base in August when C.J. Cron elected to undergo season-ending knee surgery.

In 2019, Candelario hit .203 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs in 94 games.

[ How Detroit Tigers' Jeimer Candelario went from a concern to carrying team in playoff push ]

"The way I look at it, you're either part of the problem or part of the solution," McClendon said. "We feel like he's part of the solution. He's had a great year and done some nice things. Switched positions and still carried on. Hopefully, he can build off this and continue to be the player we think he can be."

Stewart is back

To replace Candelario, the Tigers recalled outfielder Christin Stewart. He was demoted to the alternate training site in Toledo on Sept. 9 after logging a .171 batting average with three homers in 33 games.

"In BP, he swung the bat extremely well," McClendon said. "Really launching the ball. Hopefully, he made a few adjustments down there and it carries over to the games here. Always said, 'You hit 30 home runs, you become a hell of a left fielder.' Hopefully, he swings it well for us."

Detroit Tigers' Christin Stewart hits a solo home run during the third inning of the team's baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, in Milwaukee.

Last season, Stewart hit .233 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs in 104 games. He'll play left field Friday.

[ Detroit Tigers waiting for Christin Stewart to improve offensively ]

When Stewart was sent down in early September, he was replaced by rookie right fielder Daz Cameron. Through 14 career games, Cameron is 8-for-47. However, seven of those hits have come in the last six games, including two doubles and one triple. 

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content