Hiura's search for more at-bats leads to grand reward

Báez's work beginning to pay off; Foley impressive vs. Braves

March 15th, 2024

LAKELAND, Fla. -- has 284 MLB games played from his days as a Milwaukee Brewer, but he has handled his first Spring Training as a non-roster invite with the Tigers like a pro.

Road trips across Florida? He takes them.

Sunday morning at-bats against Tarik Skubal in a simulated game in an empty stadium? Sign him up.

“I’ve always been a big believer in the more at-bats I get, the better I feel,” he said Thursday. “I think that’s just because I make adjustments from day to day, at-bat to at-bat. Being able to get playing time every day, that’s what helps. So I’m all for it.”

Anything that gets Hiura at-bats, he’s taking them. And as he rounded the bases in Dunedin on Friday, having powered Detroit’s split squad in front with a sixth-inning grand slam en route to a 9-6 win over the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark, he got his reward.

Hiura got all of a pitch just off the plate from high-strikeout Blue Jays relief prospect Mason Fluharty, sending it a Statcast-projected 411 feet to straightaway center. It was his second home run in three games featuring a plate appearance and his fifth hit in his past eight at-bats, across which he also has a double and seven RBIs. For the spring, he’s batting .304 (7-for-23) with nine RBIs.

For Hiura, it’s building off of the hitting adjustments he made at Triple-A Nashville in the Brewers' system last year, cutting down on his swing-and-miss rate.

“Sometimes there’s different cues that you don’t figure out until later in the offseason,” he said. “I think it was just a matter of figuring those things out, what position my body wants to be in, where I want to put my hands, my timing. But that all comes through more repetitions, seeing live pitching, facing pitchers. I would say the first couple of weeks of spring are getting into it and then those last two weeks are when you really start feeling game-ready.”

Barring something unforeseen, it probably won’t be enough to fit him on Detroit’s Opening Day roster. He has been a first baseman exclusively this spring, and he isn’t going to cut into Spencer Torkelson’s time there. The Tigers don’t want a full-time DH, and Hiura’s positional versatility is limited compared to what the Tigers are seeking on their bench.

Still, Hiura is supplying video evidence of his work, which helps his case with Detroit as well as potentially other teams.

Baez battles through adjustments at plate

The offensive numbers aren’t pretty for this spring, but he got a little bit of positive reinforcement Friday. His line-drive single in the sixth inning Friday against the Blue Jays was just his second hit of the spring. It came after two quality at-bats went unrewarded.

Baez entered the day batting 1-for-22 with a walk and 11 strikeouts. He worked a 3-0 count in his first at-bat against Blue Jays starter Ricky Tiedemann, got a sinker in the zone and hit a 100 mph line drive to left fielder Daulton Varsho. He got another sinker in the zone his next time up, this time on a 3-1 pitch from Yimi García, and lined it to George Springer in right.

After a first-pitch strike in the sixth from lefty reliever Tim Mayza, Baez went at a sinker at the bottom of the zone and lined it into center field, part of a seven-run inning.

“Scoreboard numbers do not indicate the work that’s being done,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s done a really good job sticking with his plan and his routine. And he would love it to translate to the game more and more. He’s going to get more at-bats. He’s going to play three days in a row. He wants the adjustments to come faster.”

Quick hits

  • made his first game appearance in eight days, having been rested for a couple of days earlier in the week, and he delivered a scoreless inning with three strikeouts in Friday’s 6-1 split-squad win over the Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. He threw a 100.4 mph sinker for a called third strike.
  • left his ninth-inning appearance against the Braves with just five pitches thrown after being hit by a comebacker on the back of his right foot, but the right-hander said afterwards that he’s fine.