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Javier Baez Bounces Back From Multiple Mistakes for Detroit Tigers

During his introductory press conference, new team president of baseball operations Scott Harris stopped short of using the word rebuild. What Harris did say was that the Detroit Tigers wanted to build a culture in which they “dominated the strike zone.” The offense and defense have both struggled. As the roster is being rebuilt the team will have to maintain its focus throughout the baseball season. Some Tigers on the roster have found this more challenging than others.

The Tigers have struggled at the plate during their first 12 games. The team has hit a combined .200 batting average with an on-base percentage of .267. Part of this lineup is a first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, who has said that this will be the last year of his career. When this career ends Cabrera will be a Hall of Famer at the first chance he gets. The issue is that Cabrera has not been an impact player in the last five seasons. Having said this, Cabrera was named an all-star in 2022.

What is more concerning is the number of mistakes made by shortstop Javier Báez. Báez got his first extra-base hit in a recent game against the Toronto Blue Jays. It appeared that Báez was not giving maximum effort as he slowly ran out of the batter’s box. Baez was then thrown out trying to advance to third base. This is when manager A.J. Hinch appeared to reach his limit with the 30-year-old from Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Hinch removed Báez from the game that the Tigers would wind up winning.

In the 2021 MLB offseason Báez signed a six-year, $140 million contract. "I’m really excited to be a Tiger now," Báez said at the time. What could have turned into a rift between Báez and the manager seems to have blown over. In his first game after being benched, Báez is 4-for-8 with two walks, two doubles, and four RBIs. Báez can opt out of this contract after the 2023 MLB season. The Tigers tried many different players at the shortstop position prior to this signing, all having a third-worst -16 defensive runs saved.

Báez bounced back in the first game of a series against the San Francisco Giants. According to Jason Beck, Báez had two or more hits and two or more walks in the same game for the fourth time in his career and first as a Tiger. The last time this happened was in September of 2021 against the New York Mets. Fans at Comerica Park were not quick to forget these mistakes, booing Báez after striking out in the top of the fourth inning. He then had a 12-pitch at-bat that ended in a double that drove in two runs.

When asked about the 12-pitch at-bat after the game Hinch said, "Incredible at-bat. And listen, he’s in a really good place because he’s locked in and doing some really fun things. He’s not gonna be perfect. We don’t expect him to be perfect, but we expect him to lock in and help us, and man, is he playing really good the last two days." It will be seen whether or not Báez can sustain this focus beyond these two games. This is what the team meant when they brought up controlling the strike zone.

As of right now, the Tigers are in the top half of the American League Central. This may not last very long as they play the better teams in the division. If Báez does not come back to the Tigers after this season, there are many prospects in the organization that could fill his role. Peyton Graham of the Lakeland Flying Tigers is the top prospect at this position after being drafted 51st overall in the 2022 MLB June Amateur Draft out of the University of Oklahoma.

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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