Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch sat in his dugout Thursday as the fans at Comerica Park taunted Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, one of Hinch’s former players, during his six plate appearances.
This weekend’s series is the Astros’ first trip to Detroit since their 2017 sign-stealing scandal — the same year Hinch managed the Astros to a World Series championship — was uncovered in November 2019 and later investigated by MLB.
Hinch was fired by the Astros in January 2020, with a season-long suspension from MLB.
“Yeah, it’s uncomfortable,” Hinch said Friday. “I understand the league in general, not just Tigers fans, has an opinion and had a year away from the sport. But I also was in the same dugout with those guys not too long ago.”
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Other players were heckled, but Correa was the headliner in Thursday’s series opener. Second baseman Jose Altuve, the 2017 American League MVP, did not play, but he has received plenty of jeers since fans returned to ballparks.
Correa finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two walks, helping hand the Tigers a 12-3 loss. The Astros tallied 18 hits and six walks. Yordan Alvarez, who did not play for Houston in 2017, went 2-for-6 with five RBIs.
Houston’s players have been taunted with words and actions since the start of the 2021 season. In Thursday’s game, some spectators called Correa a cheater. Others simply booed him on his walk from the on-deck circle to the batter’s box.
Fans weren’t allowed to attend games last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know the people that they are,” Hinch said. “I know the work that they put in. I don’t want to compliment them too much when we’re playing them, but I’ve been in the trenches with them. So yeah, it’s uncomfortable.”
Hinch managed the Astros from 2015-19, accumulating a 481-329 record. His .594 winning percentage helped Houston to three AL West titles, two World Series appearances and the franchise’s first championship.
This season, Correa is hitting .305 with 14 home runs, 46 RBIs, 41 walks and 50 strikeouts in 70 games. The 26-year-old will be a free agent after this season.
And it just so happens the Tigers could use a shortstop, possibly the one their fans were taunting Thursday at Comerica Park.
Right-handed reliever Alex Lange, seen around the ballpark Thursday, has been rehabilitating from his right shoulder strain — which landed him on the 10-day injured list June 15 — at Comerica Park. He is scheduled throw a bullpen session Sunday.
Pitching coach Chris Fetter, assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves and the team’s medical staff will evaluate Lange’s health. He is expected to report to Triple-A Toledo for rehab assignments next week once the Tigers leave for Cleveland.
“Given that he was so close to getting back to pitching, we kept him with us for this homestand and he did his rehab here,” Hinch said. “We’re anxious to get him.”
Center fielder Derek Hill started his rehab assignment in Toledo on Friday. He is returning from a right shoulder sprain. The Tigers placed him on the 10-day injured list June 10. Hill hit .333 (6-for-18) with one walk and six strikeouts in four games for Low-A Lakeland.
Outfielder Victor Reyes isn’t too far behind Hill in his recovery. He is returning from a left intercostal strain, which sent him to the 10-day injured list June 3, retroactive to June 2. Reyes has played two games in Lakeland — going 2-for-4 with one double and one walk — and will report to Toledo soon to continue his rehab.
Niko Goodrum’s health
After traveling home to Atlanta for the birth of his daughter, shortstop Niko Goodrum has returned to the team. He is also recovering from a wound: The Tigers put him on the 10-day injured list June 19 with a left finger tendon injury.
“There’s not a ton he can do,” Hinch said. “It’s literally trying to get grip strength. Once he gets the grip strength, then we can put a bat in his hand, or we can put a ball in his hand and a glove on and do more baseball activities. He was walking around yesterday with a rolled-up towel, just gripping the entire day, trying to get the range of motion.
“It doesn’t look like he’s going to do a ton over the next few days until swelling subsides and the strength in the grip gets a little better. Once that happens, it’s jumping right back into it. There’s no fear of further injury.”
Hinch hinted at a rehab assignment for Goodrum.
“We’ll have to get him some at-bats somewhere and see when he can make it back,” Hinch said.
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.