Short has hard time enjoying first MLB hit

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Zack Short looked at the Tigers’ lineup for Friday’s game against the Royals and thought he’d been benched. His manager, A.J. Hinch, had told him a couple of days earlier that he’d be playing Friday. But when he skimmed the bottom of the batting order, his name wasn’t there.

“I didn’t see it the first look and I was like, ‘Man, I thought I was playing,’” Short said. “Took another look and saw myself in the two-hole.”

There he was, between leadoff hitter Niko Goodrum and Jonathan Schoop. It was the latest attempt by Hinch to get Detroit’s struggling offense going. Short went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts, but three of his four at-bats went to full counts, two of them after he was in an 0-2 hole.

Through seven Major League at-bats, Short has seen 48 pitches, continuing the trend of long at-bats he established on his way up the Cubs’ farm system.

His sixth-inning at-bat brought another familiar sight. As he turned on Mike Minor’s hanging slider and sent it flying down the left-field line, he had to wonder if he’d join Akil Baddoo as Tigers to homer for their first Major League hit.

“I’ve hit a few of those in my career that usually stay fair,” Short said of the drive. “The wind wasn’t really in my favor all night if I was going to try to pull something like that. Once I probably got halfway to first, I realized that it was going foul. I kind of touched first, looking up again and it was a pretty good distance foul, and then kind of just flushed it on the walk back to the plate and had another plan in my head [about] what he’s going to come with.”

Short fouled off the fastball that Minor put in nearly the same spot as the slider, maybe more inside. Finally, Minor tried to drop a curveball on him, a pitch the Tigers swung and missed at five times Friday, including a strikeout of Goodrum when Short was on deck. Short connected and sent a line drive into left field, a single for his first big league hit.

The Bally Sports Detroit broadcast immediately caught Short’s parents in the stands, father, Wayne, recording the moment on his phone as mother, Tracie, got emotional. Royals left fielder Andrew Benintendi, meanwhile, made sure the ball got back to Detroit’s dugout for safekeeping.

Short, fitting to his competitive nature, had a hard time celebrating after the Tigers’ loss, but he said the ball will be going to his parents.

“You want to enjoy it,” he said. “I’m glad my family saw it and everything, but it’s tough to really enjoy it, having a few tough ABs. Guys in the dugout are grinding out every AB. Things aren’t going our way right now. It’s awesome that it happened and everything, but at the end of the day, we need to get the job done, and it’s tough to enjoy both things.”

Baddoo getting starts against lefties
With Short out of Saturday’s lineup against right-hander Brady Singer, Baddoo moved up into the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Baddoo, too, started Friday against Minor, his second matchup against a lefty starter in about a week. The left-handed hitter also started against Oakland’s Sean Manaea on Thursday.

Baddoo had two strikeouts and a walk Friday. He’ll likely sit against Royals lefty Danny Duffy on Sunday, but Hinch said he won’t hesitate to keep playing Baddoo against lefties if the platoon splits aren’t drastic.

“I think for him, giving him a little taste of what being an everyday player is like is very important,” Hinch said. “I’m trying to pick and choose. Minor is not a guy that has huge platoon splits either way, so it was a matchup that wasn’t that fearful.

“The thing about left-handed hitters — especially young ones that I’ve been around in the league — is they play against lefties their entire career coming up through the Minors and through amateur ball, and then somebody in the big leagues tells them they can’t hit them before they even give them a shot. So right now, I’m trying to pick and choose the at-bats. He’s going to get some late-inning at-bats against lefties. We’re going to go to the White Sox next [week], and they have a boatload of lefties that are pretty good. So we’ve got to give him an opportunity to learn and grow against those guys, too.”

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