DETROIT — Victor Reyes was batting .143 (9-for-63) with 18 strikeouts, a .407 OPS and a negative OPS+ when the Tigers optioned him to Triple-A Toledo in early May. He was batting just marginally better, .157, when he went on the injured list with an intercostal strain in early June.
Considering those early struggles, the fact that his season-ending injury this weekend is seen as a big loss for the Tigers heading into the final week of the season speaks volumes about Reyes’ turnaround.
“I feel bad for Victor,” said manager A.J. Hinch. “He really played well at the end to push for more and more playing time.”
Thankfully for Reyes, it isn’t a severe injury that will require surgery. But the right groin strain that forced him out of Saturday’s win over the Royals will require more recovery time than the Tigers have left to go.
Reyes finished his 2021 campaign with a .258 average (54-for-209), five home runs, 22 RBIs, a .701 OPS. Those stats by themselves don’t raise eyebrows until you consider his aforementioned early-season struggles. Reyes batted .325 (41-for-126) after the All-Star break with four homers, 18 RBIs and an .864 OPS, turning what was expected to be a placeholder stint on Detroit’s roster into a regular role in the Tigers’ lineup by September.
“I applaud him for his toughness on getting through a difficult stretch, but his team mentality shined at the end,” Hinch said.
The key to the turnaround, Reyes explained through translator Carlos Guillen, was making adjustments. The early stint in Toledo allowed him to find his rhythm at the plate. The late stint in Detroit turned what looked at one point like the end of Reyes’ Tigers tenure into a real claim for a spot in Detroit’s outfield next season, depending on what the Tigers do this offseason.
Reyes isn’t taking anything for granted. He’s hoping to be healthy in time to play at least a month of winter ball in his native Venezuela so he can be in form for Spring Training, something he wasn’t able to do last offseason.
“I have to fight for a job in Spring Training,” said Reyes, who will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter.