Detroit Tigers spring training observations: One of the smallest prospects shows up big

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Seidel,  Evan Petzold | Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers have traded so many players over the last few years — and they’ve gotten so many back in return — that it’s hard to keep every deal and every player straight.

Then, here comes Zack Short, the guy they got last summer in a trade for Cameron Maybin from the Chicago Cubs.

You see him field ground balls, and you see him twisting double plays with Kody Clemens, and you start to think: Hmm, they might have something here.

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Short looked impressive during drills on Wednesday morning, moving smooth and effortlessly.

Looking like he belongs in this camp.

“Good looking player,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said.

Short, 25, is expected to start the season with Triple-A Toledo.

“You know, that poor guy came right out of home into the alternate site last year,” Hinch said. “I’ve heard the stories of him having to wrap it up pretty quickly when he got acquired here.”

Short has hit .241 in four seasons of minor league ball. And the Tigers plan to get him ready to play short, second and third.

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“He’s a pretty fast-twitch athlete,” Hinch said. “We’re gonna move him around the field a little bit.”

Short is listed at 5-foot-10, which makes him one of the smallest players in training camp. No one is shorter. But forget the size. He has 37 home runs in 371 games.

“He’s got a little bit of pop,” Hinch said. “I’m anxious to get him into games because he’s got compact actions.”

Sweating the small stuff

Hinch is obsessed with details — in a good way. He has been preaching the small things, focusing on the small little things that matter in the big picture. Trying to do everything right.

And that’s what the Tigers outfielders were working on Wednesday morning.

They paired up and did drop-step drills, the movement an outfielder takes when turning and running for a fly ball.. “OK now, flip your hips,” said George Lombard, the Tigers bench coach.

Then, they worked on the route an outfielder would take if the ball was hit deep over their head.

“OK now, we are gonna open up all the way,” Lombard screamed.

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They started doing it. “Put your head down and drive back,” he said.

You will see some of the same drills in any high school practice.

But Lombard put a little twist on it, having the players mirror each other.

Down to the minute

The Tigers staff is holding practices that are efficient and planned out by the minute.

“All right boys, we have 9 minutes,” Lombard screamed.

Nothing in this camp, it seems, is left to chance.

On the mound

Six pitchers from big-league camp tossed bullpens Wednesday: Spencer Turnbull, Matthew Boyd, Buck Farmer, Casey Mize, Joe Jimenez and Beau Burrows. From the mini-camp portion of spring training, four pitchers appeared: Ethan DeCaster, Andrew Moore, Jason Foley and Wladimir Pinto.

For each pitcher, there was a group of hitters rotating in the batter’s box. Some took hacks; others just tracked the pitches to get their timing down.

Spencer Torkelson, one of the Tigers top prospects, hit against Foley, who sits between 95-99 mph. The hardest contact Torkelson made resulted in what would have been a fly out to right field, but he didn’t seem overmatched.

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But Torkelson — once again — unleashed on the pitching machine before facing Foley. He crushed two home runs, reaching the facility’s bullpen area.

In defensive drills, Torkelson took ground balls at third base.

But while simulating a shift, he moved to the shortstop area, making a fine throw on the run. He twisted three double plays, basically playing shortstop, as a Bob Marley song, “Don’t Worry,” played over the loudspeakers.

Miggy dancing

Miguel Cabrera seems happy with his new role at first base, taking ground balls and flipping double players to Willi Castro, Niko Goodrum and Harold Castro. He has been in high spirits. On Wednesday, he danced around the infield to music and couldn’t stop smiling.

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