Ryan Kreidler didn’t allow himself to use the word “frustrated” to describe his injury-plagued season when he talked about it in Toledo a couple weeks ago.
“It’s been a really, really mentally draining season for me,” he described it, “but it’s been awesome just to be a baseball player again.”
He began the season at Triple-A Toledo as a Top 10 Tigers prospect, a breakout player in the farm system in 2021, with fans and family -- including his former sportswriter dad Mark -- anticipating his callup sooner than later. Then came a pitch off his right hand, a broken bone and surgery to place a plate in the hand. He bounced back in just over a month, well ahead of schedule, but trouble holding a bat cost him another week.
Just when he felt right from that, a groin strain on a play in the field sidelined him for another month. He returned at the end of July, but didn’t get back into an everyday playing routine until mid-August.
“If you play long enough, everybody goes through a year like this, or so I’ve been told by a lot of people who have played a long time,” Kreidler said. “You’ve just gotta roll with the punches. It is what it is. Can’t control when a pitch hits me in the hand or when I take a weird step. It is what it is. I trust my routine, and the training staff has been great. I’m just trying to keep a good attitude about it.”
On Wednesday, his attitude and his progress were rewarded with the announcement of his first Major League callup, added to Detroit’s expanded September roster. After all the stops and starts of working towards his goal of reaching the big leagues, his time has arrived, complete with what is expected to be his first Major League start Friday against the Royals, likely at second base.
“This year has been hard,” he said in mid-August, “but I’ve been at this for 15-20 years since I was a little kid. That [callup] would be icing on the cake for me.”
The Tigers saw through the injuries and interruptions that have taken a toll on his stats, including a .213 average and .763 OPS in 56 games. With manager A.J. Hinch and staff wanting to get a look at young players in the final month of a long season, the approach Kreidler showed as a Mud Hen fit him in the mix.
“I think you have to be careful not to get caught up on the batting average, because he does so much more on a team than a batting average,” Hinch said. “The reports from the guys there have been that he’s in the best position he’s been offensively. But his spark is going to be his overall package as a baseball player. He does everything pretty well. Obviously the question’s going to be his adjustments to Major League pitching, right-handed pitching and all the things that have been documented throughout his ascent through the Minors. The fact that he’s been healthy, he’s pain-free, he can help on the bases, he can help us on defense, he can play every position in the infield, he’ll be fun to have.”
Kreidler joins Spencer Torkelson, who had been optioned to Toledo at the All-Star break. While Torkelson tries to show the progress he has made with adjustments to his approach and swing, Kreidler is trying to make a first impression and make his case as an option next year for an infield that’s likely to be in flux.
Both will be getting judged along with young players already up, not just on stats but on process.
“I think there’s curiosity on how they respond to the challenge here in the big leagues in September,” Hinch said. “We’re not just playing out the schedule. We’ve got to put an environment around them to challenge them and communicate to them that they’ve got to do some things to make our team moving forward. There are jobs to be won here. There’s also experience to be gained. It’s important for us, it’s important for the organization, it’s important for the players to kind of lay it all out there. It doesn’t mean these guys have to get a hit in every single at-bat or make every single play, but all of the young players that are going to be here in September need to learn what it takes to be successful at this level and not just compete at this level. We can get anybody to compete. We need to find the guys that can learn the fastest and grow the fastest and be contributors at this level.”
Kreidler’s process in getting back from his injuries, and not getting down about them, gives him a good start.
Wednesday marked the 10-year anniversary of Avisaíl García’s Major League debut for the Tigers. A day later, he picked up his first big-league hit, an RBI single off which former White Sox reliever?
A.) Bobby Jenks
B.) Nate Jones
C.) Francisco Liriano
D.) Addison Reed
Former Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd’s long road back from flexor tendon surgery led him back to Detroit this week, but as a visiting player with the Mariners. He is set to join Seattle’s bullpen as an extra player for September.
“It is odd,” Boyd said, “but it’s exciting. Detroit is a second home and always will be. It’s been fun seeing familiar faces.”
The last time Boyd was at Comerica Park, he was a Tigers pitcher preparing for surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his left arm. He was hoping to be ready early in the season when Detroit non-tendered him in November. He signed with the Giants, but a setback cost him extra time, followed by a Trade Deadline deal to the Mariners.
“It’s a long process, and it’s not linear,” Boyd said. “The rehab process has its ups and downs, and it’s unique. It takes patience, and it produces perseverance. I have a lot of respect for players who have been through it multiple times.”
While the Tigers haven’t released a timetable for Tarik Skubal’s return from a similar surgery last month, Dr. Josh Dines, a sports medicine surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, said a 6-9 month timetable is typical. Skubal has the advantage of youth, but the 25-year-old also has previous work, having had Tommy John surgery five years ago.
Boyd said he has talked with Skubal about the process.
“Tarik’s hungry,” Boyd said. “I talked to him that night, after the surgery. He’s already going. I’m sure we’ll be in touch more. Tarik’s awesome, and so is Casey [Mize, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this summer]. Those guys are professionals. They’re attacking it the right way.”
SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE IS OUT
The Tigers’ record-extending 87th Spring Training in Lakeland, Fla., will feature 16 Grapefruit League games at Joker Marchant Stadium, beginning the weekend of Feb. 25-26 with games against the Phillies and Orioles.
The Tigers and O’s will meet four times, including another game in Lakeland on Thursday, March 2. The Blue Jays (March 4 and 20), Yankees (March 10 and 17), Pirates (March 1 and 24) and Phillies (also March 16) each visit Lakeland twice. The Cardinals (March 7), Nationals (March 8), Twins (March 12), Red Sox (March 14) and Braves (March 22) also make trips to Lakeland.
The Tigers close Grapefruit League play against the Rays at Joker Marchant Stadium on Sunday, March 26. Four days later, they open the regular season against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
With Boyd back in town this week, here’s a look at the day he came within one out of a no-hitter against the White Sox on Sept. 17, 2017.
B.) Nate Jones
García singled off Jones to drive in Delmon Young on Sept. 1, 2012 at Comerica Park. A month later, the 20-year-old García was a starting right fielder for the Tigers in their run to the World Series.
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