Detroit — His teammates have been on him all year to shoot the imaginary arrow after one of his home runs.
It’s something that rookie Akil Baddoo started back in April. When he homered on the first big-league pitch he saw, he drew the imaginary arrow from an invisible quiver and let it fly right before he rounded third.
It caught on and became a part of the Tigers’ home run routine.
Robbie Grossman, 31, wasn’t about it.
“I was like, ‘I want to act like I’ve done it before,’” he said before the game Wednesday. “But I told them, if I hit 20, I will go with it.”
He is a man of his word. He shot probably the smallest imaginary arrow ever as he rounded the bases Tuesday night after blasting his career-best 20th home run of the season against his former team, the Oakland Athletics.
“He was told he had to do that by his teammates,” manager AJ Hinch said. “All of our players were at the top of the steps yelling for him to do it. He did it very sheepishly, begrudgingly. But it was so awesome for him on a personal level.”
Grossman, who signed with the Tigers for two years and $10 million last winter, is having a career season. Not only are the 20 homers a personal best, so are his 108 hits, 192 total bases, 70 runs, 58 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.
He was presented the Heart and Hustle award from the MLB Players Association before the game Tuesday, which was poignant with the Athletics in the visitors’ dugout.
“It was ironic he got the award with a lot of his friends and former teammates across the way,” Hinch said. “They know exactly why he got this award for us. I love how he plays, love his influence. He posts every day. He is the definition of what that award is about.”
Hinch said he trusts Grossman as much as he’s trusted any player he’s ever managed, which is incredibly high praise.
“He finally earned the right to be a free agent and he got to pick where he wanted to play. For him to come here and contribute on the level that he has, it’s been incredible,” Hinch said. “It’s been a grind his whole career. He’s kind of had to fight for appreciation around the industry. But his style of play and consistency are very appreciated here.
“He’s a real pro and he’s a big reason why we’ve improved the mentality here.”
The Baddoo scuffle
Baddoo had a rough August. He went 10-for-50 (.200) with 17 strikeouts and no walks. He only had three extra-base hits, no homers, and four RBIs.
“I think Akil has widely shifted away from the discipline he showed during the better stretches of his season,” Hinch said. “He’s always going to be a powerful guy, always going to be a swing-first guy. He’s not going to be a guy who takes (pitches). But he is a guy who has shown immense confidence in knowing the margins of the strike zone.
“I hope he can settle in as he plays in a month he’s never played in before (September) at a level he’s never played at before.”
Make no mistake, rough August or not, this has been an impressive season for a first-year player who hadn’t played in two years and never above High-A ball. He’s hitting .258 with a 114 OPS-plus, 10 home runs, 45 RBIs and still leads the American League with six triples.
“Those scoreboard numbers are real,” Hinch said. “And you start to peek at them and want to hold on to them when you’ve made such an effort to get them to that level. I hope he settles back in to controlling the strike zone like he was doing earlier.”
Baddoo went into the game Wednesday having not drawn a walk in 56 plate appearances.
Around the horn
Derek Hill stretched a single into a double in the third inning Tuesday. Statcast clocked his home-to-second time at 7.74 seconds, the fourth-fastest home-to-second mark for a Tiger this season. Baddoo owns the three top times.
… Hinch said he planned to give Miguel Cabrera the day off Thursday (day game after a night game). Also, with the Tigers playing six straight games in National League parks (Cincinnati and Pittsburgh), he hopes to start him at first base at least two of those six games.
Athletics at Tigers
► First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Thursday, Comerica Park, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1
► LHP Sean Manaea (8-9, 3.97), Athletics: He’s been bitten by the home run ball of late, yielding seven over his last three starts covering 14 innings. But when he has his sinker-change-up-curveball mix working, he can be unhittable, as his two complete-game shutouts this season will attest.
► RHP Matt Manning (3-5, 5.46), Tigers: He’s coming off his most encouraging start of the season, limiting the Blue Jays to a run in six innings, posting a season-high five strikeouts and 10 swings-and-misses. His four-seam fastball (95 mph) and two-seamer (94.4) were as firm as they’ve been all season, as well. He’s still giving up a lot of hard contact (91 mph average exit velo and 41% hard-hit rate) but he doesn’t give in.