PITTSBURGH — The Detroit Tigers tacked on their final run in the eighth inning of Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Akil Baddoo applied pressure with a leadoff walk.
The Tigers were in business with Jonathan Schoop at the plate.
In an 0-2 count, Baddoo knew Schoop would be aggressive. He took off to steal second base but ended up scoring from first on Schoop’s soft single to the outfield — between the center fielder and shortstop — for a 4-0 lead.
“He put in play like he always does,” Baddoo said Monday. “He found a hole. As soon as I saw the ball in the air, I saw that I had a good chance of scoring, so I continued to run. Of course, (third base coach Ramon Santiago) reeled me in. We got the job done.”
Baddoo has 14 stolen bases in 18 attempts. The rookie averages a team-best 4.12 seconds when running from home plate to first base, and he can travel 28.9 feet per second, second on the team to Derek Hill (30.3 feet per second).
Learning to run the bases, though, is a product of Baddoo’s development under bench coach George Lombard and first base coach Kimera Bartee, who stole 20 bases as a player for the Tigers during his rookie year in 1996.
“Just as far as tendencies with the pitchers, getting good reads and knowing what to do on certain outs when you’re at second base and what to look for,” Baddoo said. “It’s definitely developing and has improved a lot. … It’s just applying pressure and punching first. Do whatever you can to get over to the next base and score runs.
“As the leadoff guy, my job is to score runs. Get in scoring position so those guys can knock me in. I’m 100% for being aggressive and letting my legs and my abilities take over.”
The Tigers acquired Baddoo as a Rule 5 draft pick in December after the Minnesota Twins left him unprotected from the 40-man roster. He hadn’t played above the High-A level in the minor leagues but, per MLB rules, needed to stay on Detroit’s active roster for the entire season as a Rule 5 draftee.
Baddoo is hitting .260 with 12 home runs, 49 RBIs, 35 walks and 101 strikeouts over 104 games. He also has 20 doubles and leads the American League with six triples. Earlier in the year, he became the team’s leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers, delivering a .254 batting average, 12 walks and 48 strikeouts in this role.
Despite Baddoo’s success, manager AJ Hinch isn’t ready to predict his future spot in the lineup.
“I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know. I think it depends on the makeup of your club,” Hinch said. “There’s a lot of upside. He’s certainly somebody that’s going to impact our lineup, but I’m nowhere near in that headspace to think about where that can go. He’s done a nice job sparking us against right-handed pitching at the top of the order. He’s got some power. He’s got some speed. He’s got a lot of things that you like for an impactful hitter.
“But just not knowing the personnel on the team, I have no idea. It’s nice that he’s been able to firmly put himself into our plans and establish himself as part of our present and part of our future. That is a success story of this year, but I’m not racing to any conclusions on what future lineups look like.”
Adding arms to the roster
Before Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh, the Tigers added right-handed pitchers Bryan Garcia and Drew Hutchison to the active roster. They took the spots that belonged to righty relievers Joe Jimenez and Drew Carlton.
Along with demoting Carlton, the Tigers sent Jimenez to the COVID-19 injured list Monday. Those moves created openings for two pitchers to add depth to the bullpen with two games remaining at PNC Park — a National League ballpark — before Thursday’s off day.
“There’s some consideration on a lot of fronts when we call guys up,” Hinch said about Garcia. “Recent performance certainly matters. You can look at the overall numbers. I know he had struggled early when he got sent down, and he seemed to have put it together the last 10 innings.
“Hutch’s ability to go multiple innings and have a lot of pitches certainly played in his favor. He arguably didn’t need to get sent down when we DFA’d (designated for assignment), but I’m glad he stayed in the organization.”
Carlton pitched 2⅓ innings since being called up Saturday for his MLB debut. Although he did not allow a run, the 25-year-old allowed three hits and one walk. Jimenez, who has a 6.15 ERA over 41 innings, experienced COVID-19 symptoms Sunday night and tested positive Monday.
Garcia has a 7.31 ERA in 32 innings for the Tigers this season. Also pitching for Triple-A Toledo, the 26-year-old owns a 5.40 ERA over 23⅓ innings for the Mud Hens. Hutchison, 31, started two games for the Tigers in August — working a 3.00 ERA over six innings — before his demotion back to the minor leagues.
Change of plans
The Tigers have switched game times at Comerica Park for Sunday (Tampa Bay Rays) and Sept. 26 (Kansas City Royals) to 12:10 p.m.. Both Sunday contests were originally scheduled for 1:10 p.m.
The reason for those changes: The Detroit Lions play their season opener at 1 p.m. Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field. Two weeks later, the Lions return to Ford Field for a 1 p.m. clash with the Baltimore Ravens.
To accommodate fans, the Tigers adjusted their schedule.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.