Tigers look to be more aggressive with 3-0 count

Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — Tigers’ third baseman Andy Ibanez came to bat with one out and nobody on in the third inning Saturday. He quickly got ahead in the count 3-0. He looked at third-base coach Gabe Alvarez, who gave him the green light to swing away.

Ibanez peeked over to the dugout.

“He kind of looked at me to confirm it,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said, laughing. “I was like, ‘Swing the bat!’”

Ibanez did just that and banged a hard single to left.

“We’re going to be aggressive on 3-0,” Hinch said. “Generally speaking, with nobody on that’s not a great play. But I wanted to demonstrate to everybody this spring that we’re going to try things and make them more comfortable.

“If we do it in spring, it’ll be more comfortable during the season. We’re not going to just wildly swing away, but we’re not going to be afraid to swing in 3-0 count.”

It used to be, a 3-0 count meant an automatic take for hitters. Whatever cookie you might get from a pitcher on 3-0 you would likely get again on 3-1. That’s not how it works these days.

“My thoughts have changed over the years because of the lack of free fastballs,” Hinch said. “No longer is 3-1 a fastball away or a fastball down. We’re seeing guys throw 3-1 off-speed pitches because of the threat of the swing.”

The best chance at a “free fastball,” maybe the only chance, is on 3-0 counts.

“It still has to be inside your hot zone,” Hinch said. “It still has to be something you can hit hard. It’s not a swing-first mentality — which goes back to what we are stressing as an organization, we have to know the strike zone.

“For me to give them freedom on 3-0, they have to know the strike zone and you earn that by demonstrating that.”

There are no risks in spring training. So now is the time for Hinch to learn who can handle the responsibility of 3-0 green lights, who has the discipline not to chase.

“Sometimes I give the 3-0 (green light) and I want them to take a strike,” Hinch said. “It’s a learning process for me with the hitters.”

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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