With fire, flair and a wicked slider, Detroit Tigers’ Gregory Soto continues to build trust
Detroit – When Nelson Cruz came out on top on Tuesday 10th in a 3-3 game with the free runner on second base with no outs, he was 5-10 in the series with three home runs and six RBIs.
You go with him, right?
“No,” said the left Gregory Soto through the Tigers interpreter Carlos Guillen. “I wanted to hit him hard and make him feel uncomfortable.”
Was it intentionally talked about or tried to move around him?
“Not really,” said manager AJ Hinch. “Nelson is an incredible talent, but the numbers speak for the pitching of guys. Giving away free tickets and opening a simple bunt for the next man to get the runners into second and third places can create a big inning. “
The strategy could of course have been different if the Tigers hadn’t been the home team with the luxury of finishing in tenth place. One run is not necessarily a killer, several runs in general. They also had the benefit of having Soto on the hill, throwing 98 mph and 99 mph sinkers, and commanding his 89 mph slider.
“Cruz didn’t look very good against Soto either,” said Hinch. “They weren’t the same swings he’d taken. That’s why I didn’t like taking him there. “
Cruz eventually hit a single on the vacated right side of the infield, which sent Jorge Polanco to third place. Then Soto got busy. He knocked out Max Kepler with a sinker and got Byron Buxton to hammer a slider into the ground right at Jeimer Candelario, who struck Wilson Ramos to nail Polanco to the plate.
After falling 3-1 behind Andrelton Simmons, Soto tossed three straight sliders and scored a swing-and-miss strikeout on the last.
“How about the courage to have the game on the line to go with a secondary pitch?” Said Hinch. “That wasn’t 98-99 mph that stopped him. It was well executed sliders against a very sociable batsman in Simmons.
“There is sure to be a presence on the front (with Soto). But it was his willingness to play the game in this situation that made me very happy. “
Of his 26 pitches in his two scoreless innings, 19 were sliders.
“That was my plan since the beginning of the year,” said Soto. “I want to throw as many sliders as possible. I have a lot of confidence that I can throw it in any count, any situation. I didn’t use it that much on opening day because I couldn’t get a grip on it (in the snow).
“But I spoke to Ramos and he told me to throw it because they weren’t going to make good contact with it.”
After getting the swing-and-miss from Simmons, Soto did a Jose Valverde-style spin-o-rama on the hill in celebration.
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“I really wanted this,” said Soto. “It’s just the natural emotions that come out, like, ‘Thank god I got him out.'”
Soto, just so you know, will never apologize for his up the hill flair or his organic, instantaneous bursts of emotion.
“It comes from inside me,” he said. “I am a very charismatic young man. I try to enjoy everything I do out there like a positional player does. Position players get hits from us and they enjoy it. Every time we have a great success we get excited too.
“Not everyone shows this emotion, but every time I have the opportunity to enjoy it, I will express myself.”
No jury would judge.
Somehow I saw this coming. Jonathan Schoop, Tigers second baseman, was delayed three weeks before spring training due to issues with travel visa and COVID-19 protocol and has still not caught up. He started the game at 2:16 on Wednesday.
“I know he stayed here late that night after the game (Tuesday) to do punch practice and work on things in the cage with Coolie (who is coaching Scott Coolbaugh),” said Hinch. “He was very frustrated yesterday.”
Hinch agreed that the late start to camp was a factor.
“With his swing and his setup and timing he looks like he’s a bit late for everything,” said Hinch. “As soon as its timing is synchronized, it becomes more dangerous again. He just needs more bats, but it’s tough.
“When you get into the season and start chasing hits, that can pile on you.”
Schoop went on Wednesday in the 2: 3 defeat 1: 4.
Around the horn
Hinch said he was confident pitching coach Chris Fetter could join the team at some point during the three-city road trip that begins Friday in Cleveland. Fetter tested positive for COVID-19, but is now symptom free and going through the protocols prescribed by MLB.
… Right-handed starter Spencer Turnbull, who is working his way back after being placed on the non-baseball injured (COVID-19) list, threw three innings in a simulated game in Lakeland on Tuesday. Hinch said he expected Turnbull to throw another bullpen in Lakeland before moving to the alternate location in Toledo.
… Willi Castro has stabbed the ball lately. He made his final blow on Tuesday, a ball that exited his racket at an exit speed of 115 mph. He had three hits on Wednesday and the exit speeds of the four balls he put into play were 103.6, 110.8, 107.6 and 107.6 mph, respectively.
… Rule 5 newcomer Akil Baddoo not only contributed offensively with an RBI triple, but also took a runner off the bases with a strong defensive game. He kicked Simmons out at the second base that led to the third inning. Simmons tried to stretch a single.
… After the rest day on Thursday, Hinch said that the rotation would stay the same. Julio Tehran, Tarik Skubal and Jose Urena throw up the three games in Cleveland.
… The Tigers announced Tuesday that outfielder Christin Stewart had been granted the exemptions and reassigned to the alternative location in Toledo.