There’s a lot of disdain between Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Báez and Kansas City Royals reliever Amir Garrett.
The beef continued Saturday.
The rivalry dates to May 2019, when Báez didn’t approve of Garrett’s strikeout celebration. Báez, then with the Chicago Cubs, and Garrett, then with the Cincinnati Reds, jawed at each other and had to be separated.
“Uniform change didn’t do a lot for that competitiveness between the two of them,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said after Saturday’s 4-3 win. “They’re both very competitive dudes, and they both have not forgotten their past.”
On Saturday, Garrett celebrated by throwing his hands in the air and asking for attention after striking out Riley Greene looking on a fastball below the strike zone, ending the sixth inning. Garrett shouted toward the Tigers’ dugout on his way back to his dugout.
Báez was on-deck during Greene’s at-bat, and didn’t shy away from responding. He barked at Garrett from the top step of the dugout, right next to Hinch. After Báez took the field, the two continued shouting from a distance.
“He can do whatever he wants,” Báez said Saturday. “I got nothing. That’s part of his game, and he knows my game.”
From the infield, Báez told Garrett — standing in the Royals’ dugout — to ask manager Mike Matheny if he could pitch the seventh inning. Báez, eager to face Garrett, instead dueled right-handed reliever Wyatt Mills and struck out swinging on four pitches.
“He didn’t ask for it,” Báez said.
But Garrett said he asked to stay in the game.
“How would he know?” Garrett told reporters Sunday morning. “I asked (Matheny) to go out again. … We’re going to see them again. I’m going to see him again. It might not be today. You never know. I definitely asked for it though.”
Saturday was the latest heated interaction between the two players.
In May 2021, Báez jumped out of the Cubs’ dugout and walked toward the mound to defend his teammates. Garrett had shouted at the Cubs, this time after striking out Anthony Rizzo.
The benches and bullpens cleared.
In July 2021, Garrett did an on-field broom sweeping celebration after the Reds swept the Cubs. Later that month, Báez came off the bench to face Garrett with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Báez hit a walk-off single to center on the first pitch, then taunted and mocked Garrett by moving his bat in a sweeping motion as if it were a broom, though the Cubs didn’t sweep the Reds. (They lost the next two games in the series.)
After plenty of antics, Báez — halfway to first base — chucked his bat to the ground as Garrett walked off the field.
In 2022, the Báez-Garrett rivalry will be one to watch with both players in the American League Central. The Tigers and Royals have 13 games remaining on the schedule.
Báez is 4-for-8 with three home runs, seven RBIs, one walk and two strikeouts in his career against Garrett.
“That energy that happened between innings with me and the other guy, it makes us focus and compete a little more,” Báez said after Saturday’s situation. “We’ve struggled a lot, but at the same time, we compete to the last out.”
More than one-and-done
The Tigers called up right-hander Garrett Hill for his MLB debut in Game 1 of Monday’s doubleheader vs. Cleveland. He replaces righty Rony García, placed on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder soreness.
Monday’s outing won’t be Hill’s only start.
He is tabbed for three starts before the All-Star break.
“Being in the (strike) zone is the biggest part,” Hill said Sunday. “You can’t defend the walk. Just attacking. If they hit it, they hit it. More times than not, if you make the pitch, you’re going to get outs. I’m not necessarily chasing strikeouts. I’m just trying to get quick outs in three pitches, four pitches or less.”
After the break, the Tigers will reassess the starting rotation, which currently features Tarik Skubal, Michael Pineda, Beau Brieske and Hill. Alex Faedo is serving as the 27th player for doubleheaders while the organization monitors his innings.
Hill will be the 14th starting pitcher used by the Tigers this season.
Hill this season has a 3.23 ERA with 25 walks and 98 strikeouts across 69⅔ innings in 15 starts combined for Double-A Erie (seven starts) and Triple-A Toledo (eight starts). The 26-year-old is the Tigers’ No. 23 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
“He’s been pretty good lately,” Hinch said. “A couple starts ago, they had tapered him down volume-wise, because he fits in the same category as guys up here: Faedo and Brieske and young pitchers. He had tapered down to three-inning starts and thrown very well coming out of that in his last couple outings.”
Robbie Grossman sits again
For the second day in a row, outfielder Robbie Grossman sat to open the game. The Tigers started Riley Greene in center, Victor Reyes in left and Willi Castro in right on Saturday and Sunday.
Grossman is 0-for-10 with a sacrifice fly and seven strikeouts against right-hander Brady Singer, who took the mound Sunday for the Royals. Left-hander Kris Bubic started Saturday’s game.
“I do like the way Victor swung the bat yesterday,” Hinch said. “Willi has been really good in right (field) and got on base. Probably not a great day to take Riley out of the lineup. The way it all worked out, it’s just a couple days off.”
Grossman will play both games in Monday’s doubleheader against the Guardians. He is hitting .212 with two home runs, 28 walks and 72 strikeouts in 60 games this season, with a .315 on-base percentage and career-worst .286 slugging percentage.