‘This is for Bennett’: Tigers reliever Will Vest spins precious moment for newborn son

Detroit News

Arlington, Texas — Bennett Vest won’t likely remember the first time he saw his daddy pitch. But there will always be the video.

Young Bennett, a little over a month old, was among a group of 30 friends and family members at Globe Life Field on Saturday night when poppa Will Vest entered the game in the seventh inning and struck out the three Rangers’ hitters he faced.

One of Vest’s friends shot video of Bennett, in the arms of his mother (Hailey), looking out onto the field where his dad was doing work.

“First time I got to pitch in front of my son,” Will Vest said after Saturday’s 11-2 victory, as he was hustling out of the clubhouse to meet up with his crew. “That was pretty cool.”

They should bookmark the box score on Baseball-Reference for Bennett. He’s going to want to look it up in about 10 years.

Vest, as he has been with only a few exceptions this season, was on point and impressive.

He got ahead of Mark Mathias 1-2 with sliders and then froze him with a 96-mph four-seam fastball. Called strike three.

In a six-pitch battle with Ezequiel Duran, Vest kept amping up his heater. He threw five straight, the last three were clocked at 94, 95 and 96 mph. Duran couldn’t pull the trigger on the last one — another called third strike.

Vest then made quick work of Bubba Thompson — slider, heater, heater, thanks for coming.

“Good stuff, great demeanor,” manager AJ Hinch said. “I know that was extra special for him. He was pumping strikes and he got some confidence. He’s thrown it very well virtually the entire season.”

Virtually. Truth be told, out of 45 appearances, he’s had just three rough outings. He gave up five runs to the Diamondbacks in June and allowed five runs in two outings against the Guardians. Ten of the 21 runs he’s allowed this season came in those three games.

When Michael Fulmer was traded to Minnesota, the thought was that Vest might get more higher-leverage assignments. That hasn’t necessarily happened. He has worked in every inning from the second through the ninth, but the bulk of his action has come in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings when the team was trailing.

“Yeah, I don’t think anything has changed,” Vest said of his role. “It’s kind of been random all year, I feel like. Which is fine. That’s almost the good thing about our bullpen. We can throw anybody in any situation.”

Vest is an emotional pitcher to begin with. But he came out of the bullpen extra hot Saturday night.

“A little bit,” he said, sheepishly. “Walking out of the pen, I gave Juan (Nieves, bullpen coach and assistant pitching coach) a fist bump and said, ‘This is for Bennett tonight.’ That was pretty cool.”

One for the family archives, for sure.

The late show

The conversation before the game turned to Victor Reyes, who took an 11-game hitting streak into play Sunday.

“Victor is a little underrated as a hitter,” Hinch said. “He knows what he’s doing. He knows what his strengths are. I actually think he gets better as the game moves along. I don’t have any stats to back that up. But it just feels like his at-bats get better and better.”

The stats definitely back him up. Reyes is 16 for 42 (.381) with five walks during his hitting streak. Eleven of the hits and three of the walks came after the fourth inning, in his third, fourth or fifth at-bats of the game.

On the season, Reyes is hitting .291 with a .337 on-base percentage and .724 OPS after the fourth inning, with eight doubles, a triple, home run and 18 RBIs.

“When Akil Baddoo came back up and we got Kerry Carpenter up here, I expected a little more of a soft platoon with Willi (Castro) and Victor. But they both have nudged the at-bats the other way, Victor especially. I didn’t expect to play Victor this much, but he’s earned his playing time.

“He’s very comfortable in the two-hole (in the lineup) and his right-handed swing has gotten better. He’s been really good.”

Around the horn

Harold Castro produced three hits Saturday night. It was his 12th three-hit game this season, which is fourth-most in the American League and ninth most in baseball. Before Sunday, he had at least one hit in six straight games and in 32 of his last 42 games dating to July 3.

…Right-hander Michael Pineda was scheduled to make his last rehab start with Toledo on Sunday. Barring setbacks, Pineda is expected to return to the rotation Friday night against Kansas City at Comerica Park.


Twitter: @cmccosky

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