Robbie Grossman is waking up for Detroit Tigers. Here’s why AJ Hinch isn’t surprised

Detroit Free Press

When the Detroit Tigers signed outfielder Robbie Grossman to a two-year, $10 million contract this offseason, manager AJ Hinch asked him to evolve into a lineup and clubhouse leader.

Grossman, 31, is exceeding those requests in May.

The Tigers (14-25) have won six of their past 10 games. Grossman’s leadership and approach at the plate is key to the offensive improvements. The team is hitting .288 in those 10 contests, after a brutal 17-game stretch — including 15 losses and a .173 batting average — from April 15 through May 2.

“He’s doing great with it, and I expected nothing less out of him when we signed him, that he was going to be a presence and an impactful guy by how he works,” Hinch said before Sunday’s game with the Cubs. “If he didn’t say one word, how he works and how he conducts his day-to-day was going to be noticed by the rest of the players.”

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Across the past six games, Grossman built a six-game hitting streak and paced the Tigers to a 5-1 record with his production. He is 11-for-24 (.458) with two doubles, two triples, two home runs, eight RBIs, three walks and three strikeouts.

Grossman isn’t overly vocal, but his teammates look up to him.

They also respect him.

“Quite honestly, it’s Miggy’s team,” Hinch said about 38-year-old Miguel Cabrera, who is hitting .172 in 24 games. “Miggy has been the presence in the clubhouse forever. I’m sure there was a little bit of a slow build to (Grossman) having more of an influence. He’ll always do more talk with his play, more than his voice, but I think he’s settling in quite nicely.”

Entering Sunday, Grossman is hitting .250 with four home runs, 18 RBIs, 28 walks and 34 strikeouts in 2021. He leads the team with a .388 on-base percentage, a career-high mark. He has chipped in six doubles and two triples.

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Hinch isn’t surprised Grossman is beginning to carry the Tigers.

Throughout Grossman’s nine-year MLB career, spanning 764 games, his batting average is .201 in April, followed by superior results in May (.250), June (.235), July (.287), August (.261) and September/October (.273). He generally cuts down on strikeouts in the summer months, as well.

Grossman finished this April with a .212 batting average. Since the calendar turned to May, he is hitting .319 across 12 games — with just six of his 34 strikeouts.

“April’s never been too kind to him,” Hinch said. “It’s one of the reasons why I’ve ramped him up and never wavered on leading him off. I think I moved him down right-handed once or twice in April, but I wanted him up there knowing that when the weather turns a little bit, we get to May, we get to June, that’s when he settles in. The more at-bats he gets, the better.”

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If Grossman could have received 100 at-bats in spring training, Hinch knows he would have taken those opportunities. It’s too bad that amount isn’t realistic. This year, he got 44 at-bats in 19 exhibition games, hitting .227 and learning about leading a young team.

Hinch expects Grossman to continue thriving.

“It is a slow-to-warm type of player,” Hinch said. “He’s always done that in April, for whatever reason. I knew he would come out of it. I knew he would start to be a little more productive.”

Injury updates

Right-hander Jose Urena (right ankle) isn’t expected to miss a start. Because the Tigers have an off day after the upcoming three-game Seattle Mariners series ends Wednesday, he gets additional time to recover. Hinch said he is “moving around fine” after a comebacker from Jason Heyward — with a 109.1 mph exit velocity — hit him above the ankle in Saturday’s second inning against the Cubs.

“His normal routine would be doing a workout and doing his post-pitching routine, so he’s going to go through with that as normal,” Hinch said. “He’ll get some treatment, get a little bit of swelling out of his leg and move forward.”

Third baseman Jeimer Candelario (left knee contusion) did not appear in Sunday’s lineup, but Hinch made him available to pinch-hit. He went through a full workout in the batting cage before the game. He sustained his injury Saturday when Cubs reliever Dan Winkler hit him in the knee with a 91.3 mph cutter.

“I’m not sure if I’ll follow through with playing him,” Hinch said. “I might give him a full day off. But competitively, he’s going to be cleared by the trainers to do whatever I want in the game.”

Starting catcher Wilson Ramos (lumbar spine strain) went to the 10-day injured list May 7. He has returned to full activities, including batting practice, catching drills and throwing. If there isn’t a setback, the Tigers will activate him Monday.

Backup catcher Grayson Greiner is working back from a left hamstring strain, which landed him on the 10-day injured list Wednesday. Without Ramos or Greiner, the Tigers have Jake Rogers and Eric Haase as the catchers on the 26-man roster. (Haase is slated to start in left field Monday, Hinch said.)

THE CATCHER: After past short stints, Eric Haase seeks chance to show he belongs

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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