Javy Báez back in Tigers’ lineup day after benching; AJ Hinch says ‘message is clear’

Detroit News

Javy Báez was batting cleanup and playing shortstop for the series opener vs. the San Francisco Giants.

Detroit — Javier Báez, the Tigers’ $22 million shortstop, was set to return to the starting lineup Friday night, a day after manager AJ Hinch yanked him in the middle of a game for forgetting how many outs there were.

Báez was to bat fourth in the series opener against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park.

“I think Javy has been great about it,” Hinch said in the Tigers’ dugout Friday afternoon. “We got home last night and got into today, and we’re ready to play, and I don’t really see any reason to deal with it today.”

Báez, in the second year of a six-year, $140 million contract, hit a double in the second inning of Thursday’s game at Rogers Center in Toronto, but didn’t exactly hustle out of the box. Then, the next batter, Akil Baddoo, flew out to center field, but Báez was already around third when it was caught, and was easily doubled off second. Báez somehow thought they were two outs, even though he was the second batter of the inning,.

Báez played the bottom of the second inning on defense, but didn’t return to the field in the third inning. Hinch had a conversation with Báez in the tunnel, and Báez was seen grabbing his helmet and leaving the dugout.

Báez’s blunder was the latest mental gaffe by a Tigers team that started the season 2-9, before winning Thursday’s series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-1.

Báez spoke after Thursday’s game, and said he supported Hinch’s decision.

Hinch, on Friday, made it pretty clear that he could’ve made a move like that at a number of points in this early season, but perhaps chose Thursday to make a big example out of a big name, to send a big message.

“More importantly than even Javy is, I hope the rest of our team understands that we’ve got to clean up the mental preparation and mental readiness on any given play,” Hinch said. “That was a team-wide issue more than a singular event. I think the message is pretty clear.”

Báez, 30, whose salary ups to $25 million in 2024, is off to another brutal start in 2023, with an OPS-plus of negative-7. Without getting wonky, how bad is that? It’s called OPS-plus, not OPS-negative. Thursday’s double was his first extra-base hit of the season in 45 plate appearances, and he has just one RBI.

Also back in the lineup were Matt Vierling, batting leadoff and playing right field, and Eric Haase, batting fifth and playing left field, after each mental notable mental mistakes during Wednesday’s game in Toronto. Neither was in the starting lineup Thursday, though Vierling did get two at-bats after coming in as a pinch-hitter.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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