DETROIT — Two weeks into the Minor League season, Derek Hill has already compiled a highlight reel of catches for Triple-A Toledo. Most of them involve collisions with the outfield wall at another Triple-A park in Indianapolis.
While Hill has long since proved that he’s a Major League-caliber defender, he’s averaging a highlight catch every other day this week for the Mud Hens. He can’t keep up this pace, in part because of the wear and tear of the collisions, but it’s a sight to watch.
The first catch of the week was probably the strongest, coming in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss that opened the Mud Hens’ six-game series in Indy. Hill, starting in left field, tracked a hard-hit line drive from Chris Sharpe and made a running grab at the wall. He bounced off the electronic board in the wall and did a somersault before showing the ball to the umpire. Hill was shaken, but he stayed in the game, having gained a key out for Tigers top pitching prospect and longtime teammate Matt Manning.
The two teams had a quick turnaround for a day game Wednesday, but Hill was ready for more heroics early, tracking down the third pitch of the game off Travis Swaggerty in foul territory in left. The bullpens at Victory Field are located on the field, but Hill kept going, sliding into the short wall down the line to make the catch as relievers scattered, some of them jumping into the stands.
Hill was done with left field, but he wasn’t done with the wall in Indy. He started in center field Saturday and ran down another ball, this one an opposite-field loft, making an over-the-shoulder catch just before he ran headfirst into the first digit on the 362-foot marker in right-center field. Right fielder Christin Stewart checked on him as he tossed the ball to a fan.
Hill entered Sunday’s series finale batting .194 (6-for-31) with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs for the Mud Hens this season, but with as many walks as hits for a .324 on-base rate. He’s 2-for-2 on stolen-base attempts. How the 26-year-old progresses offensively will be key to getting him a longer look in Detroit, but he has already made a pair of late-game appearances in center field as an extra player for doubleheaders.
Torkelson hits walk-off single for West Michigan
While top prospect Spencer Torkelson continues his quest for his first professional home run, he notched his first walk-off hit Saturday night for High-A West Michigan, sending a single into center field with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning for a 2-1 Whitecaps win over Great Lakes.
Torkelson, the top pick in last summer’s MLB Draft, had the chance to be a hero on a rainy night at LMCU Park after a Bryant Packard double and walks to Corey Joyce and Parker Meadows, the latter with two outs against Great Lakes lefty Braidyn Fink.
Torkelson ripped a drive down the left-field line on an 0-1 pitch, but the ball landed foul, inches from the line, putting hin in an 0-2 hole. After taking a ball, Torkelson reached at a ball off the plate and got enough of it to dump a single into shallow center before he was mobbed by teammates on his way around first base.
It was Torkelson’s lone hit on the night. He’s batting .167 (6-for-36) with a double and five RBIs, but he continues to demonstrate plate discipline, drawing 10 walks to go with 15 strikeouts.