‘Just very thankful’: Tigers’ rookie Zack Short impresses with glove, eye in MLB debut

Detroit News

There was no deer-in-the-headlights look from Tigers rookie infielder Zack Short.

And that’s a good thing. His parents already had seen enough of that, hitting a deer on their way to the airport in upstate New York ahead of their flight to Detroit to see Zack make his major-league debut in the first game of a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Comerica Park.

The deer survived, his parents told Bally Sports Detroit. Meanwhile, Short thrived.

Short, 25, acquired from the Chicago Cubs for Cameron Maybin last summer, drew two impressive walks in his first two major-league plate appearances and had three quality trips to the plate in the 3-2 loss. He also made a couple of fine plays on defense.

“I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet,” Short said after Game 1, before he was to start Game 2 on the bench. “It didn’t really hit me till about an hour before the game.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life.

“Every step of the way, I’m just very thankful.”

Short, in the major leagues after having precisely one scholarship offer coming out of high school, was told Tuesday afternoon he was being called up. The Tigers DFA’d Renato Nunez to make room on the roster.

The first thing Short did after getting the call was call his father. Dad was on the first tee. Then he called Mom, a “crier,” as Short calls her. Sticking to the script, she bawled.

Then the family, thanks to Short’s agent, booked last-minute travel arrangements to Detroit, and, after the deer incident, they made it, in the stands and bundled up to see it all unfold on a chilly day at the ballpark.

Manager AJ Hinch joked before the game that Short, with all his adrenaline, would be the only player on the field who wasn’t freezing. Short quickly put that theory to rest.

“I’ll never get to used it,” he said. “I don’t want to get used to it.”

But he sure could get used to this whole major-league thing.

Short is a shortstop by trade — why wouldn’t he be, given that name — but fit right in at third base, making a nice grab-and-throw on a grounder to end the top of the third inning.

Then, in the fourth, Short ranged nearly 30 feet to his left, made a diving stop and unleashed a strong throw to cut down another Pirates runner. A run scored on that play, but the effort might’ve prevented further damage in the Pirates’ two-run inning. Short’s throws to first base registered at just under 100 mph.

“He’s got a lot of baseball skills,” Hinch said. “We saw a little bit of that today.”

At the plate, in his first at-bat, Short quickly fell behind 0-2 but worked his way to an eight-pitch walk, helping start a mini-rally that led to the Tigers taking an early 1-0 lead.

He walked again his second time up, seeing seven pitches after falling behind 1-2.

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Short made the last out of the 3-2 loss, but it was another solid at-bat. Again, he fell behind 0-2, worked it to 3-2, then drilled a fly ball to relatively deep center field.

“Drawing walks in your first game, let alone your first couple at-bats, is not easy when you’ve got adrenaline and anxiousness,” Hinch said. “And you want to impress everybody.”

Watching from the stands were Short’s parents Wayne and Traci and brother Brady, a freshman infielder on the Stony Brook baseball team. Another brother, Avery, who plays at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, wasn’t able to make the trip. Wayne and Brady had their cell phones out, recording each at-bat.

Short, a 17th-round pick by the Cubs in 2016 out of Sacred Heart, hadn’t play in a sanctioned regular-season game since the Arizona Fall League in 2019, because the 2020 minor-league season was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He used much of his downtime to work on his blossoming golf game; at The Twaalfskill Club in Kingston, New York, he carries a 0.7 handicap index, which, if you’re not a golf fan, is very, very good. He seemed sheepishly embarrassed about saying he was a “zero,” but there was nothing to be shy about Wednesday.

“As much as you try to trick your mind that it’s a regular game … it’s always a whirlwind of emotions,” Short said. “You try to just prepare yourself for that moment. I tried to be as comfortable as I could.

“As soon as that first pitch (Michael) Fulmer threw, it was like, ‘All right, lock it in.'”

Short became the third Tiger to make his major-league debut this season, following outfielder Akil Baddoo and right-hander reliever Alex Lange.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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