Hinch opens pipeline to player development

Detroit Tigers

Before A.J. Hinch became a manager, he was a farm director, serving as director of player development for the D-backs. He hasn’t forgotten that role and the importance of communication between the big league club and the Minor Leagues that supply young talent and in-season help.

That’s why, as the Minor Leagues get underway this week, Hinch is keeping an open line of communication with his Triple-A Toledo counterpart Tom Prince and Double-A Erie manager Arnie Beyeler.

“I’ve been in touch with Tom Prince about every three days or so, just checking in with those guys,” said Hinch, who noted pitching coach Chris Fetter and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh do the same with their counterparts. “It’s one of the things that I expect out of my staff here, to just stay in touch with the guys below.

“I read the reports. I follow along. I’m a 24/7 baseball junkie. I usually have time, whether it’s after games or before games. My focus is here [with the Major League club], obviously, but for this organization, I am pretty deeply entrenched in what’s going on and always in touch with our people.”

It goes beyond just player reports. Hinch wants to have a feel for the organization as much as he can. He also wants to make sure that player development knows they’re appreciated up top.

“I’ve held a lot of jobs in the game, and I value communication,” Hinch said. “Look, when things are going well or not well at the Major League level, everybody feels it. Everybody’s a part of this organization. We work for the same organization and you want to feel connected top to bottom and all throughout the different areas of the organization. And I think I learned the value of that by starting my post-playing career in the front office and seeing firsthand how important that is, to have people all-in and people feel they’re a part of it.”

Foley overpowers in Triple-A debut
Lost in the crowd of highly-anticipated debuts from top-rated Tigers prospects Tuesday night, Jason Foley stepped in from the Triple-A Toledo bullpen and became one of the bright spots of the Tigers’ farm system on Opening Night. He also might have started making his case to help Detroit’s bullpen at some point this season.

Foley, making his Triple-A debut at age 25 after jumping Double-A ball, made his two-level leap look fairly easy by striking out the side in order in the eighth inning of the Mud Hens’ 8-6 win against Nashville. He needed just 13 pitches to send down Zach Green, Corey Ray and Mario Feliciano in order. Feliciano is the Brewers’ No. 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline; Ray, who made his Major League debut for Milwaukee on April 24, ranks 24th in the system.

Foley induced five swings and misses out of his 13 pitches, most of them off his power fastball.

It’s only one outing, albeit on a night when Nashville hit three home runs off Tigers top pitching prospect Matt Manning and another off former Tigers closer Joe Jiménez. Still, it’s an early sign Foley doesn’t seem overwhelmed at the level. That’s a good sign as the Tigers look at their options for in-season callups.

Foley’s jump is helping him make up for two lost seasons. He spent the 2018 campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery, then lost last year when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the Minor League season. He spent part of last summer in Toledo at the alternate training site, then made a brief impression in two Grapefruit League appearances this past Spring Training.

Mazara begins rehab
Outfielder Nomar Mazara, who has been on the 10-day injured list since April 15 with a left abdominal strain, had a strong start to his rehab assignment Tuesday in Toledo, hitting a solo homer to straightaway center field and drawing a walk in four plate appearances as the designated hitter.

Mazara moved to his usual post in right field Wednesday. If all goes well, he’ll have Thursday off, then play again Friday before the Tigers decide whether to reinstate him from the IL this weekend against the Twins.

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