Detroit — Victor Reyes is a fighter.
Every time the roster numbers look like they are lined up against him, every time it looks like he’s going to get another ticket to Triple-A Toledo, he goes on a tear at the plate.
“Just as the roster was starting to squeeze and we thought he was the odd-man out, he stepped up and played very well,” Hinch said. “He’s had some big hits when we were making decisions on what to do and I love that about him.”
After a horrendous start this season, Reyes spent nearly a month combined in Toledo. But since he’s been back, he’s slashing .326/.343/.558 with a .901 OPS. And he still can’t get in the lineup every day.
His career-long 429-foot three-run home run Friday night, his fourth since he’s been back, earned him another start Saturday.
“He’s done it with great confidence and he’s done it with a team-first attitude,” Hinch said. “And when he steps up and does his thing, it gets him in the lineup.”
You’d think by now Reyes, a former Rule 5 pick, has done enough to escape the roster bubble. In 2019 and 2020 combined, he got 505 plate appearances and slashed .293/.327/.414 with 23 doubles, seven triples and 39 RBIs. He’s also been a solid if not spectacular defender at all three outfield positions.
But he was a late arrival at camp this spring and struggled to find his traction. He was hitting .157 with 25 strikeouts in 186 plate appearances through May, a month that included two-plus weeks at Toledo, starting May 8.
“He got off to one of the worst starts imaginable for him,” Hinch said. “It started by being late for spring and not getting a full spring training. But we option him down and he took it well and just goes and does his job and gets recalled.
“He’s a good hitter and he’s establishing himself as a contributor. How much can we get out of him, I don’t know. But he’s avoided going back to the minor leagues because of how he’s performed.”
Reyes will be part of an intriguing competition for outfield jobs next spring. Most likely, only Robbie Grossman will be assured a roster spot. Reyes will be battling with Akil Baddoo, Derek Hill, Daz Cameron and Riley Greene — if the Tigers don’t add other outfielders this winter — for three or four spots.
More: Tigers’ Boyd back on IL, will seek further medical evaluations on his ailing elbow
Like a Little Leaguer
While Jonathan Schoop was waiting for the Rays to make a pitching change before his game-winning at-bat in the seventh inning Friday night, the stadium operations folks showed a package of highlights from Schoop’s appearances in the Little League World Series 2003 and 2004 with Curacao.
“That pumped me up a little bit,” said Schoop, who hit a grand slam to help the Tigers to a 10-4 win over the Rays. “It feels good. … Sometimes I want to be like I was in Little League. Just go out and have fun. Just play the game to have fun and win.”
Hinch said Schoop, Miguel Cabrera and Jeimer Candelario all bring that youthful, little league exuberance to the park every day.
“It was cool to see Jonathan up there (in the video),” he said. “And he tells us how great he was and how hard he threw and how big he was. We know that’s embellished a little (laughs).”
Hinch thought it was a poignant moment when the Little League World Series champs from Taylor stood alongside the Tigers on the field for the national anthem before a game a couple of weeks ago.
“It does bring you back to why you play the game,” he said. “Yes, we play on the coolest fields and big stadiums, we get paid, we get a lot of notoriety and attention and that’s all great. But the joy of the game is what drew you to the game to begin with.
“It’s a nice reminder for our guys why we wanted to be in this position to begin with.”
Around the horn
A reminder, with the Lions opening their season at Ford Field Sunday, the Tigers moved their starting time back to 12:10 p.m. The game will be televised on Bally Sports Detroit, but the radio broadcast will be on 950-AM.
… Cabrera’s nine straight hits, which he capped off Friday with his first two singles, is the most ever by a player 38 years old or older in the expansion era (since 1961). But, as Elias Sports Bureau noted, Ty Cobb also got nine straight hits at age 38 in 1925.