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 haven’t had back issues since I played football, and that was just little nicks and bruises. I haven’t had anything like this.”
Hill, the No. 23 overall pick last month out of Elk Grove High School in California, said it’s tough to put a cause behind the recent back pain.
But he thinks it might be all the weightlifting he’s done since he signed for a $2 million bonus and headed to TigerTown.
“I think that kind of contributed,” Hill said. “I don’t really lift that much weights. I like to swim.”
Hill was off to a solid start with the Gulf Cost League Tigers, the team’s 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 hasn’t played since.
“I was finally feeling comfortable,” Hill said. “I felt really good. I’ve got to knock this out of the way and get everything right before I go on further.
“I just want to play. It’s all part of the process.”
Hill is expected to return to action later this month; in the meantime, he’s been doing a lot of lower-back conditioning. He likely will remain in Lakeland for the entire season.