‘I’ll definitely be back’: Sophomore slump earns Tigers’ Akil Baddoo demotion to Toledo

Detroit News

Detroit — The sophomore slump is real for Akil Baddoo.

And, now, it includes a demotion to Triple-A Toledo.

The Tigers announced Monday, before the start of a five-game home series with the Oakland A’s, that Baddoo has been optioned to Toledo. It’ll be Baddoo’s first non-injury-related sting at the Triple-A level.

“I’m sure he didn’t expect it and we didn’t expect it, but the reality is, this is where we’re at,” manager AJ Hinch said Monday afternoon. “And we need him to go decompress and get himself right and play every day.

“Our best team has him on it, but right now, we’ve not been able to get him started and get him going consistently to where we feel like it’s beneficial for him to be here.

“Could be a short stint, could be longer, but hopefully he can work on things to be more consistent.”

In 17 games, Baddoo is hitting .140/.218/.220 with one home run, one double, one triple and two RBIs. In 35 plate appearances, he’s struck out 11 times.

Last season, Baddoo burst onto the scene as a Rule 5 pickup from the Minnesota Twins, and he went on to hit .259/.330/.436 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs.

In 2021, Hinch was particularly impressed with Baddoo’s approach with two strikes, with which Baddoo sacrificed power. Hinch would like to see him get back to that. With his speed, making contact can be huge.

“Everybody wants power and to create that, you’ve gotta sacrifice something,” Hinch said. “I think he’s sacrificed a little bit of the control of the strike zone and his ability to hit with two strikes. … He shouldn’t be a 30%-strikeout-rate guy, he shouldn’t be someone who doesn’t utilize his speed and contact skills to put pressure on defenses.

“And then things piled up on him a little bit. As the at-bats started to go south, he wanted to make up for it in the next at-bat, and that just confounded the issue.”

To be fair, Baddoo is hardly the only Tiger who’s struggling on offense. Darn near the whole team is. Detroit has scored 78 runs, fewest in the majors, a run behind the Kansas City Royals.

So why Baddoo?

Well, frankly, the Tigers can’t send everyone down.

“It’s unfortunate, but … it’s baseball,” Baddoo told reporters before leaving Detroit to join the Mud Hens. “Just gotta keep competing. … Just get more at-bats. … Get my reps so I can be back here, because I feel like I’m best here. I’m a big-league player.

“I’ll definitely be back where I feel like where I belong, as quick as possible.

“I gotta work on myself and get back here as soon as possible.”

Baddoo, 23, spent four games at Triple A last year, but on an injury assignment. His highest level was at high-A ball before the Tigers plucked him in the Rule 5 draft and kept him on the major-league roster in 2021.

His absence will create a bit of a depth issue in the outfield for the Tigers, who plan to use mostly Derek Hill in center field. But Hinch doesn’t want him to play every day, because of his injury history.

Willi Castro will get one of the starts in center field in Tuesday’s doubleheader.

As for the corner outfield, the Tigers got Austin Meadows back Monday from a non-COVID illness, but Hinch said he’s probably not 100%. He is expected to only play one of Tuesday’s games, as well. Hinch wants to keep Eric Haase, as the second catcher, out of the outfield as much as possible.

“We feel like we’re going to be fine,” Hinch said. “But, certainly, it’s going to be a challenge.”

In a corresponding move to the Baddoo demotion, the Tigers recalled right-hander Rony Garcia, who’s made four appearances out of Detroit’s bullpen this year. He’s allowed five hits and two runs in 6.1 innings, striking out five and walking two. He is needed to provide depth to a pitching staff that’s decimated by injuries and a grueling schedule that won’t be letting up anytime soon.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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