Minneapolis – Tigers bench coach Lloyd McClendon was there from the start with Victor Reyes. He remembers looking at this shy, skinny kid the Tigers took in the Rule 5 draft back in 2018 and shaking his head. The bat he was holding looked thicker than his arms.
“Victor has come a long, long way, believe me when I tell you that,” McClendon said with a chuckle. “You talk about hitters going from A to Z? We really had to start with A and work our way to B. There was no jumping any letters in his progression.”
McClendon, as the hitting coach through 2019, painstakingly and patiently worked with Reyes. He helped groom his mechanics just as Reyes worked to build his body. The result: Reyes showed up last season with an additional 20 pounds of muscle, but still lean, still awkward looking at the plate, but he was spraying line drives all over the field from both sides of the plate.
“To his credit, he never said no,” McClendon said. “He never backed down from the work. He was always first in the cage and the last to leave. I like to think that hard work has paid off for him.”
Entering Monday, he’d hit safely in 14 of 15 games – slashing .369/.388/.615 with an OPS of 1.003. He leads the club in hitting (.318), runs scored (24) and stolen bases (6) and his 125 OPS-plus trails only Jonathan Schoop (134) and Jeimer Candelario (130).
He’s come a long, long way indeed.
Not worried about it
McClendon was asked if he was worried the Joe Jimenez-Miguel Sano dust-up might rear its head again.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, that situation is a zero for me,” he said. “Players take care of that themselves. And I think Gardy (manager Ron Gardenhire) feels the same way – we don’t have time to deal with things like that.
“For me to try and tell a player how to act, I can’t do that. It’s their emotions. They are the ones out there playing. I don’t concern myself with stuff like that.”
There didn’t appear to be any lingering tension between the two teams. In fact, Miguel Cabrera was having his usual good time ribbing the Twins players, even playfully chiding Twins manager Rocco Baldelli for not playing Josh Donaldson.
“I think it’s important for players to find that energy and bring it,” McClendon said. “You have to get yourself going on an everyday basis and it can be tough in an empty stadium. I think our guys have done a pretty good job of that.”
‘Big, strong’ Dillon Dingler shows early signs of being answer at catcher for Tigers
Where he draws the line, though, is what the Tigers experienced in Milwaukee. Brent Suter and other Brewers relievers have essentially created a small percussion ensemble in the bullpen and they are banging out rhythms incessantly when their team is up to bat.
“I will say this, it’s also important that you be respectful to the other team, to the umpires, to everybody out there,” McClendon said. “Some the stuff that’s going on in baseball, I don’t like it. The drumming, the banging, with some of the problems we’ve had in the past (Astros sign-stealing escape), I just don’t think it’s appropriate.”
Eddie Rosario is an entertaining player, for a variety of reasons. He certainly put on a show Sunday.
First, he just missed stealing Grayson Greiner’s tie-breaking home run in the seventh inning. The ball tipped off the top of his glove.
“Rosario scared me out there,” Greiner said. “He’s made those plays before. I got just enough of it.”
On the very next hitter, Rosario apparently forgot the ground rules in a ballpark he’s played in for six seasons. Schoop hooked a drive down the left field line that bounced up off the limestone wall. Rosario, though balls that hit off that wall have always been in play at Target Field, immediately assumed it was a ground-rule double and didn’t chase the ball.
Meanwhile, the Tigers dugout was screaming at Reyes to keep running.
“Yeah, we knew the rule,” McClendon said. “We’ve been playing here for a lot of years. Gardy managed here for a lot of years. We knew that ball was in play.”
It ended up being an RBI triple for Schoop.
Earlier, Rosario made a head-shaking blunder on the bases. He was hell-bent to score from first on a bases-loaded double by Brent Rooker. Third base coach Tony Diaz tried to stop him and for his troubles, Rosario almost literally ran him over.
The near collision cost Rosario several steps and with a strong relay from Jorge Bonifacio to shortstop Willi Castro, the Tigers nailed him at the plate.
“Eddie usually does err on the side of aggressiveness,” Baldelli said.
Rosario also went 2-for-4 with a home run. You get your money’s worth with him.
Around the horn
Gardenhire missed his second straight game Monday, still battling a stomach virus. McClendon said Gardenhire was feeling better, but had to have more tests done. Tigers head athletic trainer Doug Teter said in a statement, “Gardy is following up with local physicians and is still having symptoms related to the previously reported gastrointestinal issues.”
… Cabrera took a 13-game hitting streak into the game Monday, his longest since May of 2015. In this stretch he is slashing .400/.436/.500 with two doubles, a home run and 11 RBI.
On deck: Brewers
Series: Two-game series at Comerica Park
First pitch: Tuesday – 7:10 p.m.; Wednesday – 1:10 p.m.
TV/radio: Tuesday – FSD, 97.1; Wednesday – YouTube, 97.1.
Probables: Tuesday – RHP Adrian Houser (1-3, 4.97) vs. RHP Spencer Turnbull (3-2, 3.89); Wednesday – RHP Corbin Burns (2-0, 2.35) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (1-5, 6.64).
Houser, Brewers: The Tigers ambushed him in Milwaukee, scoring three times in the first inning. Willi Castro got three hits off him and Jorge Bonifacio ripped a two-run double.
Turnbull, Tigers: He’s hit a rough patch, to say the least. He leads the American League in walks (23) and over the last four starts has walked more (16) and he’s fanned (13). He’s also yielded 11 runs in 16.2 innings, but again, the damage is mostly self-inflicted. Opponents are hitting .219 off him, but with a .383 on-base average.