Newcomers Adduci, Hicks help Tigers bash Twins
Minneapolis — Two years in Korea, winter ball in the Dominican and in Mexico, a minor league mini-camp in Lakeland, a 12-game audition at Triple-A Toledo and then, at long last, there was Sunday.
Back in the major leagues for the first time since 2014, arriving a little more than an hour before game time after taking a connecting flight from Allentown, Pennsylvania, through Chicago O'Hare, 31-year-old outfielder Jim Adduci had maybe the most satisfying day of his professional life.
“It was a great moment,” he said after stroking two singles and a two-run double in the Tigers’ 13-4 romp over the Twins. “Going away for a couple of years, it was great. I had a great experience overseas and it helped me out a lot, in the sense of having a mentality I didn’t have before.
“But just to come back — I just really enjoyed the moment.”
He and first baseman John Hicks, who arrived Saturday on a similar early morning flight from Allentown, combined to go 6 for 9 with seven RBIs against the Twins. Hicks bashed his first big-league home run, a three-run shot in the ninth.
And with the help of fellow Goochland (Virginia) High School alum Justin Verlander, he got the ball back from the left-field seats.
“The guy who got the ball wanted Verlander to sign a ball for him,” Hicks said. “I am really glad Justin helped out.”
Michael Fulmer, who loaned Hicks one his sports jackets so he could meet the team’s dress code, pitched seven strong innings for the win, allowing two runs and four hits, with seven strikeouts. He allowed just one hit — a solo home run by Eddie Rosario — after the first.
“Felt good today,” he said. “It was nice to have that big lead. Jim and John, they came up here ready to play and we’re happy to have them up here. For them to contribute the way they have, it’s awesome.”
Adduci was called up to replace JaCoby Jones, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list after getting hit in the mouth with an 89-mph fastball Saturday. Hicks was called up Saturday when Miguel Cabrera (groin) went on the DL.
“Baseball can be a tough life, especially for a journeyman player or a minor leaguer who doesn’t get a lot of time in the big leagues,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “When they do get an opportunity, or a taste of this, I think everyone pulls for them.”
Adduci was literally in the batter’s box on Saturday night with the Mud Hens at Lehigh Valley when he found out he’d been called up.
“It was the start of the inning and time was called,” he said. “For whatever reason, the last couple of series my back pocket had been pulled out. So I thought when they called time, I reached behind to tuck it back in. But (manager) Mike Rojas was waving me over.
“I didn’t know what was going on, but when he said I was going up, I said, ‘Oh, all right.’ ”
The call, he said, was shocking.
“I’ve been playing good down there, but, regardless, people don’t see you,” he said. “I guess they were watching. It means a lot for me and other players that are free agent signees. It gives everybody hope.”
He was hitting .349 in Toledo, that after hitting .314 with 24 homers and 118 RBIs in Korea in 2015 — a season that he says changed him as a baseball player.
“It’s just the mentality you have to have over there,” he said. “You are the only American position player on the team and they expect you to get it done day after day. It was the first time I was ever in that situation and I just embraced it. I embraced everything about the culture.
“I wanted to be the guy and it helped me come back here and understand, you have to get it done or you go home. I’ve just carried that with me.”
When he got the news that he was going back to the big leagues, he called his father, former big-leaguer Jim Adduci Sr., for sure, but not until after he called wife.
“My wife’s been carrying the family while I’ve been off doing this,” Adduci said. “While I’ve been playing winter ball in the Dominican and Mexico, just trying to keep playing. She’s been the rock for our family.
“This means a lot to her and it was great to share the moment with her.”
And to think, he nearly didn't get to the yard in time.
"Up at 4:15 in the morning, got to the airport at five for a 6:20 flight, get to O'Hare for a 9 a.m. flight, get delayed," he said. "I finally got here about 11:45. Just show and go."
Despite a rash of injuries and ugly losses — especially the three in Tampa — the Tigers managed to go 4-5 on the three-city trip.
Alex Avila blasted a 406-foot, two-run home run, his third of the season, and Victor Martinez, who came in hitting .190, had a pair of singles, a double and two RBIs. The double, in the sixth, was his first extra-base hit of the season in 61 at-bats.
“We book-ended the trip with good series,” Ausmus said. “We’re not happy with Tampa, we got swept. But we recovered on the back end here winning two out of three.”