Excuse Tigers relief prospect Zack Hess if he finds himself looking over his shoulder at the radar-gun readings in Spring Training and into the season, wherever he ends up in the farm system. While relievers are known for checking their velocity for ego, Hess has a wager riding on it.
The idea came from his agent, Rachel Luba, who also represents Trevor Bauer. She put the idea out on Twitter a couple months ago.
“This offseason, she tried to get me a little bit more active on social media and whatnot,” Hess explained in a video conference with reporters on Sunday. “So I guess we were just kind of having some fun, and you know, just came up with this bet [and] whatnot. If I hit 100 mph this year, then she’d have to get a tattoo. And if I don’t, if I fall short of that, then I’d have to get a tattoo. Just trying to have fun with it, and you know, try to create a little bit of fun this offseason. We’ll see what happens.”
It’s a good challenge for Hess, who was a hard thrower at LSU but tempered that in a starting role before the Tigers drafted him. He threw well during his brief stint at Class A West Michigan in 2019 after Detroit selected him in the seventh round, but he didn’t exactly light up the radar gun.
His chance to build on that vanished last year with Minor League season. But after a one-day appearance at Summer Camp, he tried to put the off-time to good use.
“I think from a player perspective, you can look at what happened in 2020 in one of two ways,” Hess said. “You could have complained about it, or you could have viewed it as an opportunity to have a little bit more time to work on things that you wouldn’t traditionally be able to work on in a normal offseason. So I tried to look at it through that perspective.
“I used that as an opportunity to get a little bit bigger in the weight room. There’s some things off the field that I would like to address, getting more strength and continuing to fill out my frame.”
Hess said he added about 15 pounds to his 6-foot-6 frame, putting him around 230 pounds. With a non-roster invite to Major League camp, he’s using the opportunity to learn.
“This is probably something that you guys might get tired of hearing, but this is like the best time to be a Detroit Tiger in my opinion,” he said. “I think from the moves that we made this offseason with, you know, the additions of [manager A.J. Hinch] and [pitching coach Chris Fetter] and those guys from a development aspect, and now you’re seeing that starting group kind of get up there, it’s extremely motivating for me to want to be a factor in our bullpen sometime in the near future.”
Said Hinch: “He’s got stuff, [he was a] college guy — he has the kind of foundation to move fast a little bit.”
Plus, Hess has the motivation of ink — not in newspapers, but tattoos.
“I feel confident, but at the same time, I’m cool with getting a tattoo,” he said. “So in my world, it’s a win-win.”
Schoop, Mazara among late arrivals
The Tigers will hold their first full-squad workout on Monday without at least a half-dozen position players. The arrivals of second baseman Jonathan Schoop, third baseman Isaac Paredes, outfielders Nomar Mazara and Victor Reyes and first basemen Renato Núñez and Aderlin Rodriguez will be delayed due to travel and/or visa issues, Hinch said.
With intake testing and protocols, the players probably won’t be cleared to join camp for at least a week, Hinch said, which rules them out for Detroit’s Feb. 28 Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies.
Cameron progressing from elbow injury
Outfield prospect Daz Cameron, who left winter ball early due to a right elbow injury, was an early arrival to Spring Training, but the Tigers are progressing cautiously, giving him treatment while planning out workouts.
“He hit today,” Hinch said. “He’s going to do some outfield work with us [Monday]. We’re going to be pretty cautious with the throwing at this point. It’s the same thing that brought him home from Puerto Rico. It’s been a longer rehab process — no real setbacks, nothing that surprised us — it’s just we’re going to have him on a slower program.”