As minor leagues begin, Detroit Tigers' AJ Hinch sends message; 'we're all replaceable'

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Manager AJ Hinch wants the Detroit Tigers to make significant improvements in the coming weeks. The minor-league season started Tuesday, and Hinch has already spoken on the phone with Triple-A Toledo manager Tom Prince and Double-A Erie manager Arnie Beyeler.

"You'd be amazed at what a five-minute conversation can do for you and for them," Hinch said Wednesday.

The Tigers (8-22) are entering the second of three games against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, nearing the conclusion of a nine-game road trip. They've lost six in a row and 16 of their past 18 contests, to go with a league-worst .199 batting average.

So, Hinch sent a message.

"The pressure is always mounting at this level," Hinch said. "You should always have a little bit of curiosity on the fact that we're all replaceable. We are all fighting for our jobs on a daily basis on how we prepare, compete and contend. I don't think anybody should ever consider themselves immune to the pressure that can be put on from the minor leagues."

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Tigers pitcher Buck Farmer hands the ball to manager AJ Hinch as he leaves after a grand slam by Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge during the fourth inning of the Tigers' 10-0 loss to the Yankees on Friday, April 30, 2021, at Yankee Stadium.
Tigers pitcher Buck Farmer hands the ball to manager AJ Hinch as he leaves after a grand slam by Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge during the fourth inning of the Tigers' 10-0 loss to the Yankees on Friday, April 30, 2021, at Yankee Stadium.

Entering Wednesday, Miguel Cabrera is stuck in a 0-for-23 slump with 13 strikeouts. Making $30 million this season, the 38-year-old has a .105 batting average. Other players at low points include outfielders JaCoby Jones (.148) and Victor Reyes (.164), backup catcher Grayson Greiner (.179), infielder Jonathan Schoop (.181) and second baseman Willi Castro (.196).

The Tigers scored seven runs in Tuesday's four-run loss to the Red Sox, but they went 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight men on the bases. Detroit drew five walks but struck out 13 times.

"There's always ways to pick the positive or pick the negative, whichever kind of attitude you wake up with," Hinch said. "Certainly, confidence-wise, it's nice to put together a good team offensive night. At the end of the day, the net result is you either win or you lose. That's what we're after on a day-to-day basis, but I was happy with the quality at-bats for the most part."

[ Tigers get a few bats going, but need Cabrera to snap out of funk at plate ]

Toledo doesn't feature many intimidating hitting options, seemingly limited to infielder Isaac Paredes, first baseman Renato Nunez, infielder Zack Short and center fielder Derek Hill. Detroit is expected to get outfielder Nomar Mazara (left abdominal strain) back from his rehab assignment by next week.

Catcher Jake Rogers, second baseman Kody Clemens and outfielder Daz Cameron — returning soon from a fractured right wrist — need more time to get comfortable. Rogers and Cameron have MLB experience, while Clemens is awaiting his debut.

"Every opportunity that you get, you want to take advantage of it, if you're JaCoby or Victor, a lot of our guys," Hinch said. "The buzz and talk around the minor-league season starting is going to add and apply a little bit of pressure. More than anything, it's the opportunities that you're given at this level that define what opportunities are next for you."

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Another area needing a boost is the bullpen. The Tigers have a league-worst 6.75 ERA from their relievers. Closer Gregory Soto and high-leverage reliever Bryan Garcia are pitching well, but guys like Derek Holland (13.00 ERA), Buck Farmer (11.81 ERA), rookie Alex Lange (7.88 ERA), Daniel Norris (6.52 ERA) and Jose Cisnero (6.35 ERA) aren't meeting expectations.

In Toledo, several pitchers are vying for a big-league opportunity, including Erasmo Ramirez, Jason Foley, Logan Shore, Robbie Ross Jr., Ian Krol, Kyle Funkhouser, Beau Burrows and Drew Hutchison.

Funkhouser and Burrows are already on the 40-man roster, along with fellow Triple-A relievers (also ex-MLB relievers) Joe Jimenez and Rony Garcia.

"Look, when things are going well or not well at the major-league level, everybody feels it," Hinch said. "We work for the same organization, and you want to feel connected, top to bottom, bottom to top and all throughout the different areas. I think I learned the value of that by starting my post-playing career in the front office and seeing firsthand how important it is to have people all-in.

"When you're not doing well, it's probably more important to communicate with everybody and get their feedback on what they see from a distance and what their team has to offer — in the sense of Tom Prince's Triple-A team to us in the big leagues."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: As minor leagues begin, Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch sends message

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