Tigers’ AJ Hinch gives struggling Nick Maton nudge: ‘Critical’ that he starts producing

Detroit News

Detroit — It looked for a minute that Nick Maton might be figuring things out.

He hit a big home run in his return to Philadelphia. He hit safely in five of eight games earlier this month. He even poked a couple of hits off his personal kryptonite, breaking balls.

But, alas, it didn’t hold. June has been as bad, if not worse than May. He hit .161 with 17 strikeouts and 12 walks in May. Entering the game Monday, he’s got 17 strikeouts and just seven walks in June and is hitting .125.

Manager AJ Hinch has been unwavering in his patience and support. But he met with Maton on Monday and basically let him know, it’s time.

“I met with him just to encourage him that we have to see some adjustment with the swing and the production for him to continue to get at-bats,” Hinch said. “We only have three healthy left-handed hitters. So it’s critical not only for him, but for us to get more out of him.”

Facing one right-handed pitcher after another for the last four weeks, Hinch has continued to put Maton in the middle of his batting order, in the fifth hole most often. He was in a 1-for-22 rut over his last seven games before Monday.

“In our jobs, we don’t just go on the outcomes you see every night,” Tigers’ president Scott Harris said. “We get an opportunity to see the work behind the scenes. We get the opportunity to see the adjustments he’s making in the cage. We see him working his tail off in the gym.

“He’s working through it right now. He is adjusting back to what the league is doing to him. There are nights when you see a lot of progress and there are nights when it’s difficult for him.”

Maton is 26 and not even close to being a finished product. He doesn’t even have 500 plate appearances in the big leagues (437). Perhaps if the Tigers had a suitable, performing left-handed hitting multi-positional player at Triple A ready to come up, Maton might be working these issues out at Toledo.

They do not.

“As long as the work looks good and as long as he continues to show adjustments, we’re going to give him some runway,” Harris said.

Keep the faith

Despite Alex Lange’s rough outing Sunday at Target Field, Hinch said he will not hesitate to give him the baseball in leverage situations against the Royals.

“I’m more concerned about him as a person,” Hinch said. “As a player, his stuff, he’s going to be fine. Like, he’s really hard to hit. It was very unusual for him to lose the feel for all of his pitches (like he Sunday). And we have to make sure this doesn’t pile up on him a little bit because of how hard he is on himself.

“But I’ll get him back out there. I told him I couldn’t wait to put the ball in his hands again.”

Lange gave up three runs in the eighth inning against the Twins without getting an out. He hit the first batter he faced, Michael A. Taylor, in the back of the head and never seemed to recover. He hit another batter, walked two and threw a wild pitch.

“My concern is just for him just because he is so hard on himself,” Hinch said. “He expects to be perfect. Even in a win, he will wear it and feel terrible about putting us in a tough position. He bears such a burden as the type of competitor he is.”

Around the horn

Outfielder Matt Vierling (back spasms) was not in the starting lineup and was not expected to be available off the bench. Hinch hopes Vierling will be able to play Tuesday against lefty starter . “If he’s not in the lineup tomorrow, then that will be a little more concerning,” Hinch said. “We’re just being careful. He’s still feeling a little issue from the back spasm. He’s assured me it’s not a big deal.”

Royals at Tigers

▶ First pitch: 6:40 p.m. Tuesday, Comerica Park, Detroit

 TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit, 97.1 FM

Scouting report

 LHP Daniel Lynch (0-3, 5.79), Royals: This will be his fifth start this season and he got beat up pretty good in his last one against the Reds. He gave up seven runs in seven innings including three home runs in the fifth. The Tigers saw him plenty last year and beat him twice, scoring 15 runs in 18.2 innings with five homers against him.

 RHP Michael Lorenzen (2-4, 4.23), Tigers: He’s slipped off track a bit the last two starts, albeit against two very good hitting teams. The Diamondbacks and Braves nicked him for 12 runs in 12.2 innings combined. The Braves especially hit him hard (22 balls in play, average exit velocity 91.5 mph).

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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