Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Tigers News

Hitting coach Vavra enlightens top prospects

@beckjason
July 14, 2020

DETROIT -- Tigers hitting coach Joe Vavra knew his pitching counterpart, Rick Anderson, had a fun job working with the wealth of Tigers prospects in Spring Training. Summer Camp has been Vavra’s turn. When Detroit invited Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson and Dillon Dingler to Summer Camp, they allowed Vavra to

DETROIT -- Tigers hitting coach Joe Vavra knew his pitching counterpart, Rick Anderson, had a fun job working with the wealth of Tigers prospects in Spring Training. Summer Camp has been Vavra’s turn.

When Detroit invited Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson and Dillon Dingler to Summer Camp, they allowed Vavra to work with three talented young hitters who weren’t going to make the Opening Day roster but could learn a ton from being around. Vavra, in turn, has learned a lot about the Tigers’ potential impact bats of the future.

This camp isn’t about judging any of them for the Opening Day roster. This is about setting the table for their pro careers.

Eyeing roster, Chiang working on pitch usage

“We are going to try to establish routines like we would on every young player coming in,” Vavra said last weekend. “You certainly don’t want to take away their strengths. You certainly don’t want to change them. You may have to modify some things like that.”

It’s a different routine than a normal camp, and not just because it’s at a Major League park rather than a Spring Training complex. With social distancing, meetings are virtual rather than in-person, and video work is less hands-on than it is hands-on-the-iPad. About the only constant is the batting practice work, since they’re outside on the field.

But that also presents an opportunity.

“Our video people are fantastic. They’re up to speed,” Vavra said. “While we were down, they were developing apps and programs and combining video technology. Every night, I go home and I see the lineups as they’re posted. I click on a name and I can watch their at-bats full length and I can get them from every angle because we have the advantage of the stadium. We can see just about everything that we need to do.

“The players have that same access. They’re getting that same email and they’re clicking on that and they can see themselves and self-analyze. There’s not going to be a lot of dialogue early about this at-bat and that at-bat. It’s about getting rid of some of the jitters, getting themselves a little bit more comfortable in that box -- veterans, rookies, it doesn’t matter -- and letting them just go.”

Every player will have a portable device to watch video, either their own or issued by the team. They can’t watch it together with Vavra or assistant hitting coach Phil Clark, but they can trade notes.

They can also watch teammates in games.

“I like to have them share information. I like to have the players talk,” Vavra said. “I think that’s what makes a lineup go is when they’re talking about that guy that’s on the mound rather than running to a video and sitting there looking at his pitches.”

Norris not ruled out just yet

With the countdown to Opening Day now into single-digit days, time is running out for Daniel Norris to get into camp and get enough work to be ready for the season. He’s currently on the 10-day injured list and acknowledged last week that he’s in protocol for COVID-19 testing. Norris is awaiting negative test results to allow him to join camp.

Norris told MLB.com last week that he’s staying ready while working on his own. He has also stayed in touch with Anderson and the Tigers' medical staff.

“If I know Chuck, I don’t care what’s going on in his life, he’s throwing a baseball somewhere and working out somewhere, and probably working out very hard,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said when asked about Norris. “That’s my guess with him because he’s non-stop. We have to wait and see when we get him back on the field, where he’s at.

“We’re going to do the right thing with him when he gets back here and make sure he’s ready to go. But I’m just betting when he gets back, he’ll be ready. I just know him.”

Boyd to pitch Wednesday

Matthew Boyd will pitch in Wednesday night’s intrasquad game on five days' rest after his intrasquad start last Thursday. The extra day creates some intrigue.

Tigers' leader Boyd setting optimistic tone

Though Gardenhire hasn’t announced an Opening Day starter, Boyd has long been expected to assume that role. Had he kept pitching on standard four days’ rest, he would’ve been on turn for next Friday’s opener in Cincinnati. Pitching Wednesday doesn’t rule him out, but it means he’ll likely have to do some work on short rest this weekend to get on turn.

By contrast, Casey Mize stayed on turn and pitched live batting practice to hitters Tuesday. But he’s still expected to open the season in Toledo -- where the club's Triple-A affiliate is located -- with the rest of Detroit’s prospects, whether Gardenhire likes it or not.

“I’d like to have him right now,” Gardenhire said of Mize, “but we know the protocol. We know what we’re trying to do here, step by step. But I just think he’s very poised. He knows what he needs to do and wants to do, and it’s fun watching him pitch. He’s in control and he has a great plan on what he needs to do to be successful.

“He’s moving really quick. For me, it can’t be quick enough. I like him a lot.”

Quick hits

• Outfielder Travis Demeritte, who missed the past four intrasquad games, took batting practice and ran the bases Tuesday. He’s expected to return to game action Wednesday night.

• The Tigers are scheduled to have five games on FS1’s national broadcast slate, which was announced Wednesday: Aug. 1 against the Reds, Aug. 8 at Pittsburgh, Aug. 24 against the Cubs, Sept. 12 at the White Sox and Sept. 24 at Kansas City.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.