What Detroit Tigers’ Akil Baddoo has learned early in Year 2: ‘I’m making that adjustment’

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo says he feels good.

He’s happy to be back in his home ballpark.

It’s interesting how some people obsess over the numbers. Well, Baddoo is 0-for-9 with four strikeouts in three games. “I don’t ever look at that,” he said Monday afternoon. “I’ll have plenty of at-bats.”

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The 23-year-old landed on the bench Sunday, as Victor Reyes, the fourth outfielder, started in center field. Baddoo returned to the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox as the nine-hole hitter in manager A.J. Hinch’s batting order, though he aspires to be the leadoff man. He was 0-for-2 with a strikeout before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh of the Tigers’ 3-1 win.

“To win games, you got to be able to rely on your counterparts, your players, your teammates,” Baddoo said. “I do whatever I can to win. So, wherever you put me, as long as I’m playing, I’ll do whatever to get the job done.”

This time last year, Baddoo was in the earliest stage of his MLB establishment. He crushed a home run on the first pitch of his MLB career, doing so in front of his parents April 4, 2021, at Comerica Park. The next day, he hit a ninth-inning grand slam. And the next day, a walk-off single to beat the Minnesota Twins.

He had an unbelievable — and unrepeatable — start to the 2021 season.

In 2022, Baddoo is off to a slow start.

“I think it’s always easy to look at early success or early lack of hits,” Hinch said. “I’d like to see him refine his strike zone a little bit, but even when he was at his height last year, I wanted him to refine his strike zone. It’s a matter of perspective, which you get from me a lot.”

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Perspective, Hinch said, can be drawn from Opening Day, when Baddoo tagged a 1-0 slider from Chicago White Sox left-handed reliever Bennett Sousa. The ball carried to the right-field corner, but AJ Pollock raced over to make the catch for the first out in the fifth inning.

“If that falls in for a double or triple, the crowd goes crazy,” Hinch said, “and we’re talking about him being a momentum builder.”

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Baddoo, a left-handed hitter, finished last season with a .259 batting average, 20 doubles, seven triples, 13 home runs, 55 RBIs, 45 walks and 122 strikeouts in 124 games. He thrived in spring training, hitting .265 with four homers — two against left-handed pitchers — in 12 games.

There’s no reason to be concerned.

Again, Baddoo has played three games.

But he’s already making some adjustments.

“I’m just working on different things,” said Baddoo, who swings and misses too much at pitches in the top of the strike zone, especially offerings in the upper-outside quadrant. “I’m realizing that, now it’s my second year, so pitchers are going to attack me differently. I’m making that adjustment.

“Naturally, they have a little bit more on me with what they feel like they can attack me with. I’m need to be prepared for that and take advantage of mistakes.”

‘Very happy’ Victor Reyes

Starting for Baddoo on Sunday, Reyes worked a nine-pitch at-bat against White Sox starter Michael Kopech and tripled to the gap right-center field. His two-out knock scored Miguel Cabrera for the Tigers’ first and only run.

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Reyes, in his fourth MLB season, connected with Kopech’s 97 mph fastball. He produced a 109 mph exit velocity, 24-degree launch angle and sent the ball 400 feet into the deepest part of Comerica Park.

“I’m very happy for yesterday’s opportunity, and I’m very thankful for that,” Reyes said, with Tigers bilingual media coordinator Carlos Guillen interpreting. “I always take advantage of every opportunity I get to help my team win. I just know that I gotta show my power. I’m working very hard, and I know it is there. It’s not a matter of how, it’s just a matter of when.”

Now, Reyes awaits his next opportunity.

What Hinch said about Tork, injured players

• First baseman Spencer Torkelson is 0-for-10 with three walks and seven strikeouts in his first four MLB games. He sat out Monday, as utility player Harold Castro received the start at first base, but entered as a pinch hitter. “Tork belongs here,” Hinch said. “This is just eight at-bats (before Monday’s game). He’s drawn a couple walks and I think, quite honestly, probably had the toughest strike zone of any hitter in the first series. … He can help us win.”

SAFE AT FIRST: Tigers’ Torkelson comfortable in MLB debut: ‘I wasn’t expecting the roar’

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• Left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin — on the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain — threw a bullpen Monday in Lakeland, Florida. Hinch said he expects him to throw a live batting practice later this week. Chafin will then pitch in a game for Low-A Lakeland before advancing to Triple-A Toledo.

• Outfielder Derek Hill is on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain. Right-handed reliever Kyle Funkhouser is also on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain. “The reason I haven’t said much about those two is, I don’t know how to describe running programs and throwing programs. But (Hill) is running. He’s going to have some key tests. This is a big week for him. We’re going to start to time him. … If he can pass that test this week in Lakeland, he’ll be ready for progression to start.”

• The Tigers will not consider surgery for righty reliever Jose Cisnero, who is on the 60-day injured list with a right shoulder strain. “He’s going to strictly get rid of inflammation and build strength,” Hinch said.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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