Evan Petzold | Detroit Free Press
LAKELAND, Fla. — The last two weeks were relatively complicated for Victor Reyes, to say the least.
For more than 14 days, the 26-year-old outfielder waited for clearance to become a full participant with the Detroit Tigers in spring training. Visa and travel issues were at the center of his delay, and when he finally arrived in the states, he needed to quarantine for five days.
“But it was beyond my reach,” Reyes said Tuesday, after passing a physical to complete his clearance. “What I had to do was just wait and, fortunately, I’m back with the guys. I found a couple of pitchers who threw to me, so I was able to see pitches and track them. I stayed in shape.”
Now officially in camp, Reyes is getting to know newcomers in the outfield. This offseason, the Tigers signed left fielder Robbie Grossman (two years, $10 million) and right fielder Nomar Mazara (one year, $1.75 million).
With JaCoby Jones returning to center field, Reyes seems likely to switch from an everyday starter to the team’s fourth outfielder, often platooning with Mazara. After competing in 57 games last season, he’s battling not just for a roster spot, but playing time as well.
“I’m happy because this team looks pretty good,” Reyes said about the new outfielders. “And every day I go out to the field to compete and in whatever way I can to help the manager bring us a win.”
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Last season, Reyes hit .277 with four home runs and 14 RBIs. He played 69 games in 2019, registering a .304 average, three homers and 25 RBIs.
The adjustment wasn’t easy, but Reyes found ways to make an impact.
“He’s a physical kid who’s had to grow up in the big leagues,” manager AJ Hinch said. “It’s not easy. The game moves pretty fast up here in the big leagues. I’ve been impressed that he’s been able to maintain his growth and his development here the last couple of years.”
[ How Rule 5 draft pick Victor Reyes went from castoff to ‘valuable’ in Tigers’ rebuild ]
Nowadays, the versatile outfielder is ready to take the next step. He wants to become a mainstay with the Tigers and stick around through the conclusion of the rebuild.
Reyes’ goals make 2021 an important year for his development, but he won’t overwhelm himself with unnecessary pressure.
“I worked hard for making it, and right now, I have a lot of work moving forward, and a lot of things I have to learn,” Reyes said. “This year, I’m going to keep proving and showing myself. Working hard every day to prove why I’m here. I’m happy to have the opportunity.”
Nunez nears debut
First baseman Renato Nunez has officially passed the COVID-19 intake screening process and completed his physical, making him an active member of camp. His arrival was delayed because of visa and travel issues. He took live batting practice Tuesday and expected to play in Friday’s game.
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The Tigers signed Nunez to a minor-league contract this winter. If he makes the majors, he will earn $1.3 million. The 26-year-old hit .247 with 43 home runs and 121 RBIs across 203 games for the Baltimore Orioles in the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
“We’re still waiting for (Jonathan) Schoop to get through his process,” Hinch said, “but I think we have a pretty good chance of getting him pretty soon. … I’m going to get these guys in as soon as I can.”
Updated pitching schedules
Last week, Hinch locked in Matthew Boyd, Tyler Alexander and Matt Manning for Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, followed by Michael Fulmer and Tarik Skubal on Thursday in a seven-inning game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.
On Friday, right-handers Jose Urena and Julio Teheran will pitch in a clash with the New York Yankees in Lakeland. Top pitching prospect Casey Mize is starting Saturday against the Phillies in Clearwater.
Message to Baddoo
This spring, outfielder Akil Baddoo is 5-for-13 (.385) with three RBIs, five walks and three strikeouts through seven games. It’s a strong start, but for Baddoo to make the roster, he needs to continue to produce at a high rate.
As a Rule 5 draft pick, Baddoo must stay on the active roster for the entire 2021 season or be offered back to the Minnesota Twins. But for him to make the team, the Tigers will need to carry five outfielders: Baddoo, Reyes, Jones, Grossman and Mazara.
[ MLB scouts project future for Detroit Tigers’ Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo ]
The influx of outfielders, however, shouldn’t be something Baddoo is concerned about.
“I hope he’s not thinking about it because that’s a distraction and nothing that he can control,” Hinch said. “The first communication to him is to go play and let us sort out what the roster looks like, or what the organization wants, what the coaching staff wants and where it fits in.
“You start putting that baggage on your mind or in any part of your brain, it’s going to be a distraction. … We’re looking at a longer view on a lot of these guys but also some short-view interest in what they bring to the table.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.