All eyes on Short after bat graffiti pays off

Detroit Tigers

You’ve no doubt heard the saying about needing a second pair of eyes on something, but Zack Short’s interpretation of the phrase took things to a whole new level.

Short was slumping at the plate, having struck out four times in a row heading into Monday’s series opener, then fanned in his first two at-bats in Texas before assistant hitting coach Mike Hessman brought him aside for a chat. Hessman then took the rookie’s bat and drew a pair of eyes on it.

The goofy superstition paid off nearly immediately, when Short slugged a two-run homer in the sixth inning of Detroit’s 7-3 win over the Rangers. No one was happier than Short, who, between his 405-foot bomb and an incredible dive-and-shovel move to start a double play in the eighth, earned the rights to wear the wrestling title belt over one shoulder during his postgame Zoom interview, an honor the team bestows upon the game’s MVP.

“Any time I can wear this [belt], I’m going to take it with me,” Short said. “That’s the second time a coach has [drawn eyes on my bat], and both times I’ve hit a homer after. I’m going to have [Hessman] start drawing graffiti on my bat, if that’s the case.”

Hessman was promoted from his coaching post at Triple-A Toledo on June 12 to replace José Cruz Jr., who was named head coach at Rice University on June 10. If anyone could help snap Short’s slump, it was Hessman, who, with 433 career round-trippers, holds the all-time Minor League record.

Short added a sac fly in the eighth to finish the game with a career-best three RBIs.

Whether an adrenaline carryover or just plain old good reflexes, Short then drew rave reviews in the bottom of the eighth when he dove gloveside to cut down a Nick Solak grounder then, while still laying prone, shoveled the ball from his glove to waiting second baseman Willi Castro, who stepped on the bag and fired to first to complete the double play.

Perhaps the best part of the play was the reaction it garnered from reliever Erasmo Ramírez, whose face visibly lit up with appreciation as he shouted, “Wow!” from the mound and pointed emphatically to Short.

“As soon as you cross that line on defense, it’s time to steal some hits from the other team, hopefully,” Short said. “[Ramírez] is awesome. We’ve played together for a few months. He’s such a high-energy guy, and it was just awesome to see him ear-to-ear screaming at you.”

Down on the farm
For those still questioning how Roberto Campos could be the Tigers’ No. 10 prospect without having played a game, the 18-year-old burst onto the scene Monday with a towering home run on the first pitch of his professional career in the FCL Rookie League.

The Cuban defector isn’t yet the household name that the Spencer Torkelsons and Riley Greenes of the Detroit prospect world are, but the Tigers certainly saw something, forking over a $2.85 million signing bonus in July 2019 that was at that point the club’s highest for an international amateur.

Campos has spent the past three years training in the Dominican Republic, where he and his family now live.

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