July 11, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Tigers first-round draft pick Derek Hill shut down with back spasms; he downplays injury

The Tigers recently decided to shut down their first-round draft pick, Derek Hill, because of back spasms. (Jose Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee)

Detroit The Tigers are shutting down their 2014 first-round draft pick, high-school center fielder Derek Hill, following a recent bout with back spasms.

An MRI came back relatively clean, outside of some inflammation.

But, still, Tigers brass are being cautious.

Last Thursday, it was like a sharper pain, Hill, 18, told The Detroit News over the phone from Lakeland, Fla. So I was like, I guess I should go see somebody or tell somebody.

I havent had back issues since I played football, and that was just little nicks and bruises. I havent had anything like this.

Hill, the No. 23 overall pick last month out of Elk Grove High School in California, said its tough to put a cause behind the recent back pain.

But he thinks it might be all the weightlifting hes done since he signed for a $2 million bonus and headed to TigerTown.

I think that kind of contributed, Hill said. I dont really lift that much weights. I like to swim.

Hill was off to a solid start with the Gulf Cost League Tigers, the teams rookie-league affiliate in Florida.

He played 12 games and batted .319 with a double, two triples and four stolen bases. He also walked nine times, giving him a robust on-base percentage of .448.

Hill, though, went 0-for-5 on July 3, and then alerted team doctors to the back issue. He hasnt played since.

I was finally feeling comfortable, Hill said. I felt really good. Ive got to knock this out of the way and get everything right before I go on further.

I just want to play. Its all part of the process.

Hill is expected to return to action later this month; in the meantime, hes been doing a lot of lower-back conditioning. He likely will remain in Lakeland for the entire season.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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