‘Anybody can play right field’: Tigers’ Cabrera helps cut tension for Andy Ibanez

Detroit News

St. Louis – Andy Ibanez hasn’t played a lot of outfield – a total of seven games in his seven professional seasons. He played left field in those game. Not once has he played right field at any level.

Until Friday night, that is. AJ Hinch, wanting to get as many right-handed hitters in his lineup as he could against Cardinals’ lefty starter Jordan Montgomery, especially hot-hitting ones, started him in right field.

“I’ll be OK,” Ibanez said through Tigers’ bilingual interpreter Carlos Guillen. “I know things are going to be all right.”

Miguel Cabrera, seated in the locker next to Ibanez, was listening to the interview. He pulled out his phone.

“Anybody can play right field,” he said, and proceeded to pull up a highlight video off his Instagram account showing himself making one great catch after another when he played right field for the Marlins early in his career.

“Look, look,” he said, showing Ibanez a replay of him going back to the wall in right field and stealing a home run. “Whoo-hoo!.”

Ibanez loved it.

“He’s a guy who has been treating me with so much confidence,” he said. “He gives me a lot of motivation. Just being around this guy who has done so many things in baseball. He’s given me a lot of trust. I am really proud for the way he treats everybody as a close friend.”

Hinch continues to show trust in Ibanez, as well. And not just because he threw him in right field Friday. Ibanez, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Toledo on April 29, went hitless in his first 10 at-bats, striking out five times.

But Hinch stuck with him and he’s responded, going 4 for 7 with a double in two games against the Mets this week.

“We’re just not going to deny players opportunity if they get off to a tough start,” Hinch said. “We’re going to continue to believe in them and give them at-bats. One of the things we’re going to work hard at here with this culture is for players to feel comfortable when they have success and feel comfortable when they struggle – because they’ve got good support around them.”

The best way to show support, Hinch said, is to keep giving them responsibility. Keep giving them opportunities. But, he added, the rope isn’t infinite.

“There is a fine line between accountability and support and I’m going to walk that line with these players,” he said. “I’m going to continue to remind them, ‘I know this isn’t an easy level.’ I don’t expect everybody to be perfect every night. When they get an opportunity, we want them to seize it.

“And they seize it when their mind is clear and they believe in the group around them.”

As for starting him in right field, and batting him second, Hinch was hoping to jump on the reeling Cardinals, who had lost six straight games, and Montgomery right out of the gate. He started nine right-handed hitters, using an outfield of Ibanez in right, Matt Vierling in center and Eric Haase in left.

“Montgomery is a really tough matchup for lefties,” Hinch said. “To beat Montgomery, you have to beat him with the bat. We will rely on some athleticism more than experience at a few positions and work our tails off to get a lead.

“Then we can get some defense in there.”

Bunny hop catch

Baseball can produce high comedy at times.

Starling Marte hit a high, foul popup between home and first base with two outs in the top of the six inning Thursday afternoon. Actually, it was much closer to first base.

Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson was positioned in the hole between first and second against the right-handed hitting Marte. It would have been a tough play for him.

Catcher Jake Rogers flung off his mask and chased the ball 61 feet up the line, making the catch with a comical-looking bunny hop, like he expected to hit a wall.

“Everyone was making fun of me,” Rogers said with a sheepish grin.

The thing is, Rogers, quite understandably, expected Torkelson to be chasing that ball, too.

“I looked at Tork and he was still running for it,” Rogers said. “He said something so I kind of jumped to brace myself. Then I caught it and looked around and Tork was nowhere to be found.”

Torkelson had conceded the play to his athletic catcher.

“I told him, ‘You take it,’” Torkelson said. “That’s his play.”

You don’t typically see a catcher chasing a popup that far down the line. Nor do you often see the catcher duck out of the way from, well, nobody.

“He was already running back to the dugout,” Rogers said. “He’s looking at me like, ‘Why did you jump?’”

Around the horn

… The Tigers are still listing TBA as their starter in the series finale Sunday. The tentative plan is to call up a pitcher from Toledo, but the games Friday and Saturday could alter that plan. “It will most likely be someone external,” Hinch said. “We need to discuss it a little more.” Right-hander Alex Faedo would be on turn to pitch Sunday, though Hinch didn’t mention any specific candidates.

… Reliever Trey Wingenter has had to back off his throwing program for a couple of days. The inflammation in his right biceps flared up when he began light tossing earlier this week. According to the club’s medical update, he received a cortisone injection to treat inflammation. He won’t pick up a ball until the end of next week, at least.

… Outfielder Kerry Carpenter (shoulder) is expected to start hitting this weekend back in Detroit.

… Lefty Tarik Skubal, working back from flexor tendon surgery, is scheduled to throw his second bullpen session Saturday in Detroit.

… It’s not going to make him feel any better, for sure. But it’s worth noting. Torkelson came into play Friday slugging just .308 (five doubles and two homers) with a OPS-plus of 63. He also came in with the fifth-highest differential in the American League between slugging percentage (.308) and expected slugging percentage (.427) – 119 points. That’s buzzard’s luck, especially considering the average exit velocity on balls in play is 91 mph with a 44.7% hard-hit rate.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

Tigers at Cardinals

When: 2:15 p.m., Saturday, Busch Stadium, St. Louis

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

Scouting report

RHP Spencer Turnbull (1-4, 6.84), Tigers: This will be his seventh start and he’s still searching for consistency – consistency with his mechanics, velocity and command. He’s shown flashes of his pre-surgery self in every start. The process is slower than he wants, but progress is being made with every start.

RHP Adam Wainwright (season debut), Cardinals: The 41-year-old’s start to his 18th big-league season was delayed by a stubborn groin injury. He’s made three rehab starts. He struck out nine and threw 89 pitches over 5.2 innings in his last one. He doesn’t throw any pitch over 90 mph anymore, but he still gives hitters fits with his elite curveball, sinker and cutter mix.

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