Quality plate appearances from Detroit Tigers’ Tyler Nevin should lead to more hits soon

Detroit Free Press

BALTIMORE — Tyler Nevin is doing all the right things at the plate.

Except getting hits.

The 25-year-old has received 14 plate appearances since the Detroit Tigers recalled him April 12 from Triple-A Toledo, following a rehab assignment. He is swinging at pitches inside the strike zone and making contact on pitches inside the strike zone, as well as avoiding swings and misses.

“I think I’m right there,” Nevin said. “I’m taking some good at-bats, seeing a lot of pitches. Just impacting the baseball, obviously, I would like a little bit more of that. But I feel like that will come.”

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Nevin, who knows exactly how he wants to attack pitchers, is hitting .100 (1-for-10) with two walks, three strikeouts, one sacrifice fly and one hit-by-pitch. Beyond the box score, the quality of his plate appearances suggests the overall production will improve in the near future.

In Wednesday’s 3-2 loss, Nevin faced Cleveland Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase and battled for 11 pitches. The matchup, which included eight consecutive foul balls, ended when Nevin flied out — with a 76.9 mph exit velocity — as the right fielder completed a sliding catch.

He wasn’t pleased with the batted ball.

“He probably didn’t get the read that he would have liked,” Nevin said. “It felt soft off the bat and went straight up, so those are usually outs.”

Still, there’s a positive takeaway because of the way Nevin competed against one of the best closers in baseball. It was an epic 11-pitch at-bat, and, like the Tigers as a whole recently, he showed toughness.

This season, Nevin has averaged 5.43 pitches per plate appearance — roughly 1.5 more than MLB’s average — through four games. He averaged 4.61 (in 18 plate appearances) in 2021 and 4.31 (in 184 plate appearances) in 2022.

“He makes good decisions,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s the daily quote of controlling the strike zone, and he’s very good at it. He swings at the right pitches. He takes the right pitches. He’s not going to be perfect. No guy is. But for the most part, he puts up a pretty good at-bat.”

The Tigers know Nevin is capable of hitting.

“If you make good decisions, you’re going to give yourself the biggest chance to be an offensive threat,” Hinch continued. “We haven’t really seen him breakout yet, but the decision making has been pretty consistent.”

Nevin, a third baseman, first baseman and left fielder, suffered a left oblique sprain in spring training and missed an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster, then hit .514 (18-for-35) with four doubles, one home run, three walks and two strikeouts in nine games for Triple-A Toledo.

Swinging at pitches inside the strike zone, and not swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, is the primary reason why the Tigers acquired Nevin in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles on New Year’s Eve for cash considerations.

The hits should come next if he maintains his approach.

“I’m going to keep playing and keep letting things fall, and they will,” Nevin said. “I want to provide some power for the lineup and help the team out that way, but I feel good right now, and I’m just going to keep going.”

Wingenter to IL

The Tigers announced a late roster move, less than an hour before the start of Saturday’s game, placing right-handed reliever Trey Wingenter on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder tendinitis. Right-hander Will Vest was called up from Triple-A in the corresponding move.

Wingenter, who missed the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons with injuries, had allowed four earned runs on five hits and two walks, with five strikeouts over 4⅓ innings this season. West has not pitched in the majors this season, after posting a 4.00 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 22 walks over 63 innings last year. In nine innings (over seven appearances) with Triple-A Toledo this season, Vest allowed eight runs on nine hits and four walks, with three homers allowed and 12 strikeouts.

Remember when?

Nearly 13 years ago, Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Edwin Jackson, who played 17 MLB seasons for 14 different teams (including the Tigers in two separate stints), threw a 149-pitch no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

Back then, Hinch was the Diamondbacks’ manager.

“Probably the most stressful outside of a few Game 7s (in the World Series),” Hinch said. “You want the pitchers to get the opportunity, and you want to win the game. What a lot of people don’t know about the Edwin Jackson no-hitter is I had a pitcher warming up every inning for six of the nine innings given the traffic that was on the bases and his lack of command.”

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The conversation about Jackson’s no-hitter came up in the visitor’s dugout Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Earlier in the day, Chicago Cubs left-hander Drew Smyly took a perfect game into the eighth inning. (Only 23 players in MLB history, and none since Félix Hernández in 2012, have completed perfect games.)

In the eighth, Smyly gave up a leadoff ball in play to David Peralta on a soft ground ball down the third-base line. Both Smyly and catcher Yan Gomes chased after the ball, and while Smyly got to the ball first, Gomes accidentally jumped on Smyly’s back and brought them to the ground in the infield.

Peralta was safe at first base without a throw, and the play was ruled a hit, the only safety for the Dodgers on Friday.

“It’s a tough one to balance when you’re chasing history,” Hinch said of Smyly’s pitch count, at 103 pitches when he exited after 7⅔ innings. “I didn’t think it was going to end the way it did with Yan Gomes tackling Smyly, but oddly enough, the guy who exhaled the most at that point was probably (Cubs manager) David Ross.”

As for Jackson’s no-hitter in June 2010, he allowed eight walks and one hit-by-pitch — with another batter reaching safely on an error — en route to the highest single-game total for pitches since 2005.

He finished one pitch from halfway to 300 pitches.

“It’s not an event that I’m watching the same way that a fan does or the same way that somebody is covering it does,” Hinch said. “We have to balance so many decisions that go on throughout the game, and it feels like, sometimes in this job, no matter what decision you make in the moment, it’s potentially backfiring.”

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Both Jackson and Smyly pitched for the Tigers.

Jackson, now 39, pitched for the Tigers in the 2009 and 2019 seasons, earning his lone All-Star appearance in 2009. He had a 4.37 ERA with 89 walks and 194 strikeouts across 253⅓ innings. The Tigers dealt him to the Diamondbacks as part of the Max Scherzer trade in December 2009.

Smyly posted a 3.53 ERA with 81 walks and 264 strikeouts across 280⅔ innings for the Tigers from 2012-14. The Tigers shipped him to the Rays as part of the David Price trade in July 2014.

Battling in close games ‘fosters’ culture

The Tigers have played six consecutive games decided by one run or decided in the final plate appearance.

They won the first four, which included walk-off hits from Nick Maton, Kerry Carpenter and Miguel Cabrera, before losing the past two games. In the two losses, the Tigers’ offense was productive in the late innings.

The Tigers lost, 2-1, in Friday’s series opener against the Orioles but avoided a shutout when Javier Báez delivered a two-strike, two-out single to score Akil Baddoo and tie the game in the top of the ninth inning.

“I do like the fact that, our guys, we’re not conceding anything,” Hinch said. “The games we’ve fallen behind, we hang in there mentally and give ourselves a fighter’s chance at the end. The games we’ve won late, I think they’re character builders and give us reward as to why you do that.

“I don’t doubt it based on the personalities that we have. We get to know these guys, the DNA and the makeup of this team, but you want to see some of those rewards like we did last week, and that fosters exactly the type of culture that we’re going to have. We’re going to play 27 outs. That type of stuff, to me, is very contagious and needs to be fostered.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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