Nobody in American League history had a higher OPS through his first eight Major League games than Akil Baddoo.
Nobody expected the Tigers rookie and Rule 5 revelation to keep up that record pace.
Baddoo’s season is going to be a series of adjustments as he experiences his first extended stretch of baseball since Class A ball in 2019. His hot start accelerated that, not just his incredible homestand against Cleveland and Minnesota but his timely opposite-field power in Houston earlier this week. But the more Baddoo played, the more the A’s had a chance to scout him.
Baddoo is 0-for-7 through the first two games of the Tigers’ series in Oakland, including strikeouts in his last six at-bats. He was far from the only Tiger the A’s cooled off from Houston in the back-to-back losses, but he was the notable one.
“It’s part of this development and part of his exposure to the big leagues,” manager A.J. Hinch told reporters after Friday’s 3-0 loss. “They’re not just going to keep sitting there and throwing him balls that he can hit.”
Baddoo was out of Saturday’s lineup against A’s lefty Cole Irvin, but Hinch indicated he’ll likely play in Sunday’s series finale against Chris Bassitt.
The A’s haven’t simply beat him with a steady diet of offspeed pitches after watching him adjust to those in Houston. They’ve changed speeds on him in a way that left him indecisive on pitches. Yusmeiro Petit threw him four different pitches in a seven-pitch strikeout in the seventh inning of Thursday’s opener, culminating in back-to-back changeups.
Frankie Montas spotted sinkers in different parts of the zone against Baddoo on Friday, catching him on the upper-inside corner with one in the third inning before fanning him in the fifth. Jake Diekman spotted a fastball on the outside corner to get a called third strike in the eighth after nearly hitting him with a sailing breaking ball earlier in the at-bat.
If there was an encouraging sign for Baddoo, it’s that none of the strikeouts were easy. None were on three pitches, and five of the six went to 2-2 or full counts.
“I don’t think anybody was expecting him to continue on the pace that he was on,” Hinch said. “And this is a pretty good pitching staff on the other side. They’re a very smart organization. They’re going to try to seek out areas to try to get him out, and they’ve been successful so far.”
One adjustment from Baddoo worth following came in his first at-bat Friday. After a first-pitch ball from Montas, Baddoo tried to lay down a bunt against an infield that was shifted to the right side. He bunted foul.
“I liked that Akil tried that, especially when he was leading off the inning and we’re trying to kickstart any sort of momentum,” Hinch said. “So there’s multiple ways to get on base for him. The game will kind of dictate how often he does that, but he’ll have that in his repertoire. He took a nice little shot at it and fouled it off, but if he can keep people honest in how they defend him or just keep an extra way of getting on base, it’ll be nice to see him utilize that from time to time.”
• Miguel Cabrera (left biceps strain) has taken ground balls the last few days in Oakland in addition to hitting in the cage. He’ll start taking full batting practice when the team returns home next week. Cabrera won’t return for the Tigers’ first series of that homestand against the Pirates, but Hinch isn’t ruling out the next series against the Royals.
• Nomar Mazara (left abdominal strain) will likely miss at least a couple weeks, according to Hinch, while he ramps up activity following his injury Wednesday in Houston. The Tigers will be cautious with the outfielder given how his injury plays into the rotation on his swing.