Tigers outfielder Victor Reyes went to Triple-A Toledo to figure out his timing.
The physical adjustment was small — more about finding consistency and less about swing changes. He felt disappointed when the Tigers demoted him May 8 to the minor leagues, but he knew it wouldn’t be long before he returned, if he performed.
After an 11-game hitting streak for the Mud Hens, the Tigers called Reyes on Sunday night to inform him that, indeed, he was coming back to the majors — replacing JaCoby Jones, who was sent down because of his struggles.
“Very, very, very tiny things, those things I worked out,” Reyes, 26, said Monday. “And it went well. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can keep doing it here and seeing how things are going if I keep that approach.”
Reyes hit .391 across his 12-game stint in Toledo as an everyday outfielder. He faced sporadic playing time after the Tigers put five outfielders on the Opening Day roster and never got comfortable.
Following his demotion, everything clicked.
“He took it to heart that he needed to go down and perform in order to get back,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Monday. “I think that warrants an opportunity, when a player takes what you say in the meeting when you send them down, after he gets over the emotional toll, you go out and work. Victor did that.”
While with picking up 18 hits in 46 at-bats, Reyes recorded four doubles, one home run, six RBIs, seven walks and eight strikeouts. He went 9-for-63 (.143) with one home run, three RBIs, two walks and 18 strikeouts through 21 games in the majors.
“It feels very good,” Reyes said. “I mean, if you’re working very hard on something, and you see the results, that makes you feel good. … You just got to do your job and help the team win games. Giving the team and the manager opportunities to win games is something very good.”
The Tigers are hopeful Reyes, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 Rule 5 draft, becomes part of the rebuild. He came to Detroit from the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 126 games between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Reyes hit .293 but struggled with strikeouts.
Reyes, who started Monday’s game in center field, has the ability to play all three outfield positions, which could make him an asset.
“Take advantage of every opportunity the manager has to give me now that I’m back,” Reyes said. “Bring all my help and support my guys to win games, because in the end, that’s the goal.”
Sending Jacoby Jones down
The Tigers demoted Jones for the same reason they demoted Reyes.
Across 36 games, Jones hit .170 with two home runs, nine RBIs, five walks and 42 strikeouts. Of his 17 hits, only four went for extra bases. The 29-year-old isn’t an everyday player anymore, nor does he look comfortable at the plate.
“The only way to get out of those numbers is to get hits,” Hinch said. “What we think we can do as humans is swing to get hits, and it kind of feeds the problem if you (swing) outside the strike zone against some of the best pitchers in the world. Hitting is hard enough as it is inside the strike zone.”
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Hinch believes Jones is a major-league player, but he needs to get back on track. From 2018-20, Jones was the team’s everyday center fielder. His playing time has been chopped this year — often in favor of rookie Akil Baddoo — because of his poor production.
In 2020, Jones hit .268 with five homers, 14 RBIs, seven walks and 34 strikeouts in 30 games. He’s hit .212 batting average in 352 games across parts of six seasons.
“It’ll be the best thing for him,” Hinch said. “It’s a time in his career where he can reset himself and fight back to being an everyday player again. It’s not necessarily something he’s thinking about right now, but it will sink in for him.
“If he does that, we want him back here. We feel like he can contribute, but what we were getting at the point of the decision yesterday, we felt like this was the best thing for us to do.”
On Sunday night, catcher Wilson Ramos reported back pain that sent him back to the 10-day injured list Monday afternoon with a lumbar spine strain. The 33-year-old will travel to Lakeland, Florida — home of the team’s spring training facility — to go through the full rehabilitation process.
The timetable for his return is unknown.
The same injury sidelined Ramos from May 7-17. At the time, the Tigers believed his IL stint was precautionary, rather than a bigger issue. Following his activation, Ramos went 2-for-23 (.087) with six strikeouts in six games.
“He didn’t look as healthy as he’s looked earlier in the season,” Hinch said. “We had a long talk today about what was best for him, what was best for us. The fact that he’s going out there less than 100% doesn’t work. … He admitted the back was bothering him a little more than he admitted before. We came to the conclusion that we got to get it right this time.”
This season, Ramos has a .200 batting average, six home runs and 13 RBIs in 35 games.
With Ramos going to the injured list, left-handed reliever Derek Holland has been reinstated from the injured list. He has not pitched since May 1 because of a left shoulder strain. The Tigers placed him on the 10-day injured list May 6, retroactive to May 3.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.