How this Tigers prospect turned his season around

Detroit Tigers

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Ryan Kreidler didn’t allow himself to use the word “frustrated” to describe his injury-plagued season when he talked about it in Toledo a couple weeks ago.

“It’s been a really, really mentally draining season for me,” he described it, “but it’s been awesome just to be a baseball player again.”

He began the season at Triple-A Toledo as a Top 10 Tigers prospect, a breakout player in the farm system in 2021, with fans and family — including his former sportswriter dad Mark — anticipating his callup sooner than later. Then came a pitch off his right hand, a broken bone and surgery to place a plate in the hand. He bounced back in just over a month, well ahead of schedule, but trouble holding a bat cost him another week.

Just when he felt right from that, a groin strain on a play in the field sidelined him for another month. He returned at the end of July, but didn’t get back into an everyday playing routine until mid-August.

“If you play long enough, everybody goes through a year like this, or so I’ve been told by a lot of people who have played a long time,” Kreidler said. “You’ve just got to roll with the punches. It is what it is. Can’t control when a pitch hits me in the hand or when I take a weird step. It is what it is. I trust my routine, and the training staff has been great. I’m just trying to keep a good attitude about it.”

On Wednesday, his attitude and his progress were rewarded with the announcement of his first Major League callup, added to Detroit’s expanded September roster. After all the stops and starts of working toward his goal of reaching the big leagues, his time has arrived, complete with what is expected to be his first Major League start on Friday against the Royals, likely at second base.

“This year has been hard,” he said in mid-August, “but I’ve been at this for 15-20 years since I was a little kid. That [callup] would be icing on the cake for me.”

The Tigers saw through the injuries and interruptions that took a toll on his stats, including a .213 average and .763 OPS in 56 games. With manager A.J. Hinch and staff wanting to get a look at young players in the final month of a long season, the approach Kreidler showed as a Mud Hen fit him in the mix.

“I think you have to be careful not to get caught up on the batting average, because he does so much more on a team than a batting average,” Hinch said. “The reports from the guys there have been that he’s in the best position he’s been offensively. But his spark is going to be his overall package as a baseball player. He does everything pretty well. Obviously the question’s going to be his adjustments to Major League pitching, right-handed pitching and all the things that have been documented throughout his ascent through the Minors. The fact that he’s been healthy, he’s pain-free, he can help on the bases, he can help us on defense, he can play every position in the infield, he’ll be fun to have.”

Kreidler joins Spencer Torkelson, who was optioned to Toledo at the All-Star break. While Torkelson tries to show the progress he has made with adjustments to his approach and swing, Kreidler is trying to make a first impression and make his case as an option next year for an infield that’s likely to be in flux.

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