Detroit — Sunday was a bit of a roller coaster for Tigers reliver Gregory Soto.
Prior to the Tigers’ 6-5, series-deciding win over the Chicago White Sox, manager A.J. Hinch delivered news in the clubhouse that Soto would be the Tigers’ lone representative in the 2021 All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver on July 13.
Fast forward a few hours later: The Tigers had a commanding four-run lead with Soto, who entered Sunday with a 2.18 ERA, coming on for the ninth. After allowing two men on, White Sox slugger Jose Abreu made it a one-run game with one out and Chicago’s four and five hitters coming to the plate.
The lefty Soto was given a chance to attack Brian Goodwin, but got pulled after a walk. Jose Cisnero shut the door with a one-pitch flyout, and everyone in Comerica Park left happy after a Tigers victory.
“It’s a big achievement for me and my family,” Soto said. “Since I was a kid, I’ve always thought about that, and now it’s a dream come true.”
Soto entered this season as a polarizing arm in Detroit’s pen. The potential has always been there for Soto, but his first two seasons in the major leagues produced a 5.36 ERA. His control issues in 2021 no longer outshine his raw ability to throw the baseball, and he’s amassed a 1.4 WAR in just 35 appearances.
“His stuff has always been talked about, written about, feared from the other side,” Hinch said. “The big question was, was he going to be able to harness it? He’s really put together a nice run of quality outings in high-leverage (situations) with zero room for error. I’ve only put him in the toughest spots imaginable.”
Soto said his favorite memories of watching the All-Star Game as a kid typically involved a left-handed pitcher like himself.
“Clayton Kershaw being as young as he was, starting to go to the All-Star Game, is something that encouraged me a lot,” Soto said.
Soto might also be one of the first people alive to look forward to facing San Diego Padres superstar, and fellow Dominican, Fernando Tatis Jr.
“We played together in 2017,” Soto said. “We have a good relationship and talk a lot.”
Hinch added that he thought there were a few members of his team worthy of an All-Star nod, including hot-hitting first baseman Jonathan Schoop and Jose Cisnero and rookies Casey Mize and Akil Baddoo.
“I’m really proud of (Soto),” Hinch said. “He’s a first-time All-Star, so obviously that room erupted when I let the guys know that he was going to be our representative.”
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.