DETROIT — Javier Báez has been on the job for barely a month as Detroit’s shortstop, but he’s quickly building a highlight reel for his Tiger tenure. His diving stop and behind-the-legs pass for a forceout at second base on Wednesday should be near the top.
It was one out for Michael Pineda in the third inning of the first game of a doubleheader against the Pirates at Comerica Park, but it was an impressive one.
Báez began the play shifted to the right side of the infield against Pirates All-Star Bryan Reynolds with Ben Gamel on first base. However, Reynolds’ ground ball up the middle — hit with a 100.5 mph exit velocity — sent Báez behind second base to make a diving stop and smother the ball.
Báez had his back to the bag as he collected the ball and Jeimer Candelario hurried over to cover. Instead of using time to get up, turn and throw, Báez flipped the ball out of his glove and between his legs to Candelario for the forceout.
He made another stellar play the next inning, spearing Daniel Vogelbach’s 105 mph one-hopper up the middle and whirling to get the out at first.
It was a display of athleticism for the two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, all part of the resume that Báez brought to Detroit when he signed a six-year deal as a free agent last November. The Tigers knew his offense could be mercurial, but that his defensive ability could make a difference every game.