Patience, belief, opportunity, Tigers staying the course with rookie Parker Meadows

Detroit News

Detroit — Tigers manager AJ Hinch was asked about rookie Parker Meadows hours before the Tigers were beaten by the Reds 4-3 Wednesday, a game in which Meadows went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.

His words foreshadowed the night.

“You know, we waited 500-600 plate appearances for other guys on the team, guys who have matured and grown into their offensive profile,” he said, referencing the patience that was afforded Spencer Torkelson and others. “We are a ways from that with Parker and maybe we won’t have to wait that long. But it’s all part of learning and growing at this level.”

Meadows has just 81 plate appearances in the big leagues and Hinch isn’t going to let this current 0-for-26 skid block this opportunity. In truth, the struggles are a learning tool.

Hinch stuck with Meadows with two on and two out in the fifth against lefty reliever Sam Moll. Meadows grounded back to the mound. Meadows came up again with two on and one out in the seventh and struck out against right-handed reliever Ian Gibaut.

Finally, in the ninth, after pinch-runner Zack Short stole second to put the tying run in scoring position, Meadows lined out to first base against Reds’ closer Alexis Diaz.

Hinch stuck with Meadows and left Javier Baez, the Tigers’ $150 million shortstop, on the bench. But that is in line with the mission for this month. The Tigers are assessing unproven talent. Baez’s playing time will continue to be sporadic.

“It’s more about giving a runway to see what Parker can do,” Hinch said. “These are big opportunities for him to grow and learn and battle against left-handed pitching. Where we’re at right now, we’re going to give our guys as many opportunities as we can to feel those pressure moments.”

Meadows has been stellar in center field. He saved two runs on Tuesday night with a long running catch in the right-center field gap and later made a diving catch coming in on a sinking liner. He’s also finding ways to get on base. He’s walked nine times and been hit twice. He’s also 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts, stealing two of them without the catcher bothering to throw.

Mostly, though, big-league pitchers are beating him, primarily with high-velocity fastballs.

“He’s got to get on the fastball,” Hinch said. “They’re beating him with fastballs quite a bit. Teams are trying to make him honor velocity.”

Meadows in the small sample size is hitting .115 against four-seam fastballs with a 34.5% strikeout rate.

“I see the league adjusting to him and he’s learning a lot,” Hinch said. “But keep in mind, we weren’t declaring anything in his first 20 at-bats (when he was hot) and in his first 100 at-bats we aren’t declaring anything.

“It’s just part of the growing and maturation of handling more pitches as teams get more data based on his time up here.”

The Tigers have been through this process a bunch the last couple of years. With Torkelson. To a lesser degree with Riley Greene and Kerry Carpenter. With Nick Maton. Even with Andy Ibanez, Zach McKinstry and Matt Vierling. It takes equal parts patience, belief and opportunity to pull the players through.

Hinch continues to be unwavering in all three.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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