How Detroit Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman put himself in ‘a tough spot’ at the plate

Detroit Free Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman first blamed the baseballs for his power outage, claiming the balls aren’t flying as far as in years past. He then blamed the spacious Comerica Park, where he hit 12 of his career-high 23 home runs last season.

After 38 games, Grossman is still searching for his first home run.

But his lack of power isn’t the only problem.

“He’s not controlling the strike zone,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “It looks like he’s having a hard time with some of the areas. He’s taking some borderline pitches that aren’t going his way. He’s taken some swings at some borderline pitches that he normally doesn’t chase. He’s in a tough spot, like a lot of our guys.”

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Hinch benched Grossman — the Tigers’ leadoff hitter — for Wednesday’s series finale against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. He went 0-for-5 with one strikeout in Monday’s 5-4 loss, then 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Tuesday’s 2-0 loss. 

“I’m just grinding a little bit,” Grossman said. “Every day is a new day, and I’m looking to come help the team every chance I can. … I’ve had a rough 15 games. I’m looking forward to the next time I get in there.”

Those losses dropped the Tigers to 14-28 this season, 12½ games behind Twins for first place in the American League Central. They’ve lost all five games against the Twins in 2022.

In the past nine games, Grossman is hitting .114 (4-for-35) with one double, one walk and 12 strikeouts. In the past 15 games, the 32-year-old is hitting .073 (4-for-55) with one double, seven walks and 20 strikeouts.

“Just continue to work and believe in what I’m doing,” Grossman said. “Things will turn. … It’s frustrating. It’s part of this league. It’s part of this game. I’ll be back. Next time I play, I’m looking forward to getting in there and helping the team win.”

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Grossman has played 38 games this season, producing a .189 batting average with five doubles, 10 RBIs, 20 walks and 40 strikeouts. His on-base percentage is .306, down from last year’s team-best .357 clip.

The 10-year MLB veteran is slugging a career-low .227.

His strikeout rate has worsened over the past two seasons, from 19.8% in 2020 as a member of the Oakland Athletics to 23.1% in 2021 and 30.6% in 2022. His walk rate has deteriorated, from 14.6% in 2021 to 12.7% in 2022.

“It hasn’t been good for him,” Hinch said. “He deserves a mental break.”

For Wednesday’s game, Daz Cameron took Grossman’s place as the leadoff hitter and starting right fielder. The role of leading off, Grossman said, doesn’t create added pressure for him.

“I don’t take that into account,” Grossman said. “I just try to do my best every day and trust in my work that I’m doing. At some point, it’ll turn for me.”

Hinch: Matt Manning situation ‘not ideal’

Right-hander Matt Manning exited Tuesday’s rehab start — his fourth rehab outing for Triple-A Toledo — with two outs in the second inning at Fifth Third Field, throwing 43 total pitches.

The 24-year-old tossed 13 pitches in the first inning, then 30 pitches in the second, allowing one run on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Mud Hens manager Lloyd McClendon pulled Manning because the Tigers’ organization has a 30-pitch limit in any inning for minor league pitchers.

Manning did not sustain an injury.

“We’re going to meet in a minute about what it means,” Hinch said. “It sounds like the hard fast 30-pitch rule that we have in the minor leagues was applied to him. … Minor league pitchers that we have will be pulled after 30 for health reasons. From what I understand at this point, that’s all I know.”

Hinch is frustrated about the state of the Tigers’ rotation, which has six starters on the injured list, but he would not say if he agreed or disagreed with the organization’s 30-pitch limit in Manning’s situation.

“I need to talk to the organization,” Hinch said. “I wish he would have got his three outs before 30 pitches. This falls on the unfortunate side of things when we’re trying to build him up.”

Manning entered his fourth rehab start without any restrictions, after leaving his third rehab start last Thursday in the second inning due to dehydration. He threw 49 pitches in that game.

The Tigers placed Manning on the injured list April 20 with right shoulder inflammation.

Manning was only supposed to need three rehab starts. Now, he could require a fifth rehab outing.

But the Tigers haven’t announced their decision yet.

“It’s not ideal, but nothing’s ideal right now,” Hinch said. “We’re in a tough spot.”

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

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