Kreidler's super-utility work keeps him ready for anything

March 9th, 2023

BRADENTON, Fla. -- So many Tigers are playing multiple positions this year that it’s hard to discern which player has the most gloves in camp. Unlike past Spring Trainings, there’s no Don Kelly or Niko Goodrum with seven or eight gloves stacked in his locker in this camp.

Ask about his glove count, however, and he’ll admit having some extras buried behind the two in front.

“There’s more,” the Tigers’ No. 11 prospect said. “I have at least five. Got some new ones, got some old ones.”

There’s a new glove and an old glove for middle infield as well as the corners. There’s also an outfield glove he had to pick up when the Tigers began experimenting with him in center field late last year.

Unlike some shortstops, there is no ancient glove Kreidler has fallen in love with and will use until it falls apart. He uses a new glove every year, after it’s worn in. That’s probably a good thing; while Kreidler still could end up being the Tigers’ shortstop of the future, his chances of making the Tigers for now hinge on playing all over.

With Javier Báez, Jonathan Schoop and Andy Ibáñez away at the World Baseball Classic, and Tyler Nevin battling an oblique injury, Kreidler has an opportunity for regular at-bats to make his case that he’s ready to crack his first Opening Day roster. But to do so, he’s going to have to jump around.

On Thursday, Kreidler brought four of his five gloves on the road -- one for shortstop, one for third base, one for outfield, plus his backup shortstop glove.

“That’s kind of a catch-all,” he said.

Kreidler started Thursday at third, where he had a late-season audition as a September callup last year. It’s his best chance at a starting position in this lineup. He made a nice play on a tricky hop and a quick throw to second base for a second-inning forceout.

On Tuesday, Kreidler started at shortstop, where he’s splitting time with Nick Maton this week while Báez is away. The pairing could shift over to third as a lefty-righty platoon if Kreidler makes the team.

On Monday, Kreidler entered at second base, moved over to short so that Báez could get an inning at second ahead of his stint there for Puerto Rico in the WBC, then finished the game in center field.

His goal through all this is to be ready for anything.

“Play as well as I can wherever they put me,” Kreidler said. “I feel comfortable at third base. I feel comfortable at shortstop. I feel comfortable at second base. And I’ll try to get comfortable in the outfield.”

The better he hits, of course, the better he’ll look. He has not had the kind of hot-hitting Spring Training that he enjoyed the previous couple of years, the kind that opened eyes to the former fourth-round Draft pick as a prospect and propelled him up two levels in 2021 to Double-A Erie to begin what became a 22-homer season before putting him on the brink of Detroit last year.

This spring?

“Getting there,” Kreidler said earlier this week. “I feel like it’s coming along. I feel close.”

The broken hand he suffered last April is no longer an issue, even though the plate is still there.

Kreidler’s lone hit Thursday against Pirates starter Rich Hill was a first-pitch flare into shallow right field for a two-out single to extend a third-inning rally. Hill nearly erased him, catching him too far off first base, but Kreidler extended the rundown long enough for Akil Baddoo to break from third. Once the throw went home, Kreidler scrambled back to first.

“With Akil’s speed, I knew if I stopped, I’d at least give him a chance,” Kreidler said. “It would’ve been bang-bang at second base, but you don’t really want to make an out at second base in that spot. I’m just trying to stay alive.”

The tally opened the Tigers’ scoring on their way to a 10-7 win. It’s the kind of contribution that helped Kreidler make an impact down the stretch last year, despite batting .178 with 22 strikeouts in 84 plate appearances.

“One thing I learned last year in the big leagues was that those are the things that help you win in a tight game,” said Kreidler, who also walked on Thursday. “I feel like that’s a strength that I have, being able to execute the little things, baserunning, defense, baseball IQ type plays. If that’s my role on the team, then I’m going to try to execute."