Baddoo carving niche, making adjustments

Detroit Tigers

Akil Baddoo burst onto the scene in a big way on April 4, with a home run in his first Major League at-bat. He then enjoyed immediate success with a string of how-did-he-do that home runs, clutch hits and look-at-this-guy-go performances.

The Rule 5 Draft pick is now a household name among Tigers fans, with his jersey for sale in fan shops to prove it.

But now that initial introductions have been made, the 22-year-old — who had never played a game above Class A ball before this season — is learning about big league adjustments.

“There are going to be a lot of ups and downs, and bumps and bruises, and you have to keep going and stay even keel, and continue to have fun and don’t lose sight of that,” Baddoo said prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. “That’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

Due in large part to the splash Baddoo, ranked as the club’s No. 22 prospect by MLB Pipeline, made from the onset of his Major League career, there are no more free strikes. Word has spread about the kid from Silver Spring, Md., and opposing pitchers are adjusting their approach to counter his. Sometimes, Baddoo comes up big — like his triple on Monday night against the Royals, or the double and triple he hit against the Pirates on Thursday.

While 11 of his first 14 hits this season had gone for extra bases, Baddoo had also struck out nine times in his previous 13 at-bats. His .259 average entering Tuesday was respectable, but he’d fanned nearly half the time (25 strikeouts in 54 at-bats). Is there concern over the trend?

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch pointed out that there’s so much more going on behind the scenes.

“Everybody talks about adjustments in the big leagues, and we go right to the at-bats and how they’re pitching [to] them,” Hinch said. “That is like 1/100th of what’s going on in his world right now with the information that’s going on the bases, to his defensive positioning, to throwing to the right bases, to the tempo of playing balls off of the wall.

“I mean, he’s getting feedback on virtually everything but how he walks on the field. That’s about the only thing we’re kind of letting him do his way.”

Remember, everything from how to prepare for a day game after a night game, to developing early-work routines is new to Baddoo, who’s not yet two months into his career. Fortunately for him — and those who’ve already purchased his No. 60 Tigers jersey — he’s quite the student.

“[I’m] just doing my thing, but also learning from what I have in front of me, like the veterans, the coaching staff and everyone,” Baddoo said. “Just learning how to be a big leaguer, how to maintain and how to continue to be successful.

“There’s going to be some times where you’re going to go 4-for-4, or 0-for-4, and you’ve just got to literally just stay positive and just know that’s baseball.”

• With 2,871 career hits, following Tuesday’s homer in his first at-bat, Miguel Cabrera moved just three shy of passing Babe Ruth on the all-time list. Detroit’s slugger is also one double away from his 400th with the Tigers and No. 583 in his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Robin Yount for 21st on MLB’s all-time list.

• Detroit’s rotation allowed just 99 hits this season, the lowest total through the first 23 games of a season in club history.

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