Message from AJ Hinch to Tigers Prospects: Ignore the noise, “go beat the game”
LAKELAND, Fla – AJ Hinch was never a mega-prospect, but he was a well-regarded young wide receiver in the late 1990s.
Drafted in the second round out of high school and in the third round out of college, he knows a little what it’s like to be in the shoes of the young prospects of the Detroit Tigers.
But the Tigers manager also believes the pressure he felt two decades ago has increased exponentially for high profile prospects today.
“You can read your headlines a little easier these days than years and years ago, and the level of expectation is sky-high,” Hinch said. “The expectation that they should be playing right away has never been higher. So they carry all of these distractions.
Hinch said making the leap into the big leagues is such a monumental challenge that high expectations can be more of a burden than a boost. He wants the Tigers’ crop of young prospects to focus on the pitch and ignore outside noise.
That’s advice he’s already passed directly to pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, and he plans to share the same message with other prospects like Matt Manning, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene.
“You are competing with the game, not (trying) to live up to a reputation that someone outside has given you,” Hinch said. “It’s exciting because we can start dreaming about what the Tigers teams will look like over the next decade. But that doesn’t help you beat (Shane) Bieber on opening day. It doesn’t help you when you watch Aaron Judge in April or May. That’s the message to these guys, “Go beat the game. Don’t worry about your prospect’s status. ‘”
Mize wants to be “anchor”
Hinch watched Mize’s bullpen session on Thursday and chatted with the No. 1 overall pick and top pitching prospect thereafter.
He said he was excited about what he had seen so far.
“It’s going to be fun working with him on how to use it. He has so many weapons. It will be fun to watch him evolve and use his throws a little more efficiently, a little more efficiently, ”said Hinch. “More than anything, I want to take some of the burden off Casey so he doesn’t have to be perfect right now. He just needs to go compete with his business.
Mize posted a 6.99 ERA in seven starts in 28 1/3 innings on his Major League debut in 2020. That’s not clear if he will be in the rotation in 2021 or start the season at Triple-A Toledo.
“I think Casey has everything, all the ingredients you need to make an adjustment from last season,” Hinch said. “Its pitches are elite in all areas. He will leap forward when he applies his cases more effectively.
“He wants to be an anchor in this rotation and I told him the opportunity is going to be there for him to win it.”
Left-handed pitcher Joey Wentz isn’t always mentioned alongside Mize, Skubal and Manning, but he could be soon.
The 23-year-old underwent Tommy John-style surgery 11 months ago and reached a milestone playing catching a sloping mound for the first time on Friday.
“He’s so happy to be on a team again and to feel like a player and not a patient,” Hinch said. “Finally, we have to stop talking about Manning, Mize and Skubal, in any order. Finally, we would like to add a name to it.
Friday News and Notes
Tyler Alexander, Daniel Norris, Kyle Funkhouser, Jose Cisnero, Alex Lange and Zack Hess hosted reliever box sessions on Friday, the third day of pitchers and catchers training sessions.
Hinch said many pitchers are ahead of schedule for this time in the spring. Matthew Boyd, for example, threw 41 shots on Thursday.
Among the pitchers who stood out on Friday, Hinch mentioned Lange, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the trade of Nicholas Castellanos.
“I thought he was pretty sharp with his stuff,” Hinch said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen him live, obviously, and I can see why we’re happy with him.”