Tigers' Hicks flashes power, hammers HR in homecoming

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Tigers catcher John Hicks

Baltimore — That was quite a family-and-friends promotion John Hicks put together Sunday.

Hicks drove a Kevin Gausman pitch nearly 420 feet into the upper regions of the Orioles bullpen in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game at Camden Yards, which saw the Orioles trim Detroit, 5-3.

Hicks, who got the start at catcher Sunday, grew up in Goochland, Va., about a three-hour drive from Baltimore. Lots of his homeland gang trundled Sunday into Camden Yards on a 49-degree day, dressed, as most of a crowd of 28,089 was outfitted, in apparel more reflective of December and a Ravens NFL game.

“I can’t hit it much better than that,” said Hicks, who wasn’t as happy with his next at-bat, in the sixth, after the Tigers had loaded the bases with two out in a game the Orioles then led, 3-1.

Hicks struck out against reliever Brad Brach on a stream of consecutive fastballs.

“Yeah, with the bases loaded,” Hicks said, “I’ve got to do better than that and put the ball in play.”

More: Henning: Norris, Zimmermann baffling for Tigers

Hicks is one of the Tigers’ certified power players, as his home runs, and even his batting-practice blasts, have made clear.

He has not moved any closer to a starting job. James McCann is entrenched as the starter there. First base, which is Hicks’ occasional outpost, is manned by one Miguel Cabrera.

Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has said he will do with Hicks what he has tried to do with Niko Goodrum, and even Rule 5 rookie Victor Reyes. He will work to get them at-bats, when he can — for their good, and the team’s.

Hicks has been among add-ons the Tigers front office is always happy to discuss. He was grabbed from the waiver wire early in 2017 after the Twins decided he wasn’t in their immediate plans.

Hicks, 28, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Mariners in 2011 when he was a catcher at the University of Virginia.

Not enough

The Tigers had eight hits Sunday, but they couldn’t match the Orioles’ seat-smashing ways

Pedro Alvarez drilled a pair of homers for the Orioles — the second time in their weekend series Alvarez had a two-homer game against Tigers pitching.

Trey Mancini also homered for the Orioles leading off the first against Daniel Norris.

Jeimer Candelario had two hits for the Tigers, including a RBI double in the seventh, when the Tigers scored twice to cut Baltimore’s lead to 4-3. Niko Goodrum also doubled in the inning, on a blooper down the left-field line, to knock in a run.

It happens

Gardenhire once was a third-base coach, with the Twins, the team he later managed after Tom Kelly retired.

Gardenhire had moments policing third he wished he could edit. There was, for example, that night at Tiger Stadium when, on a ground ball to Lou Whitaker at second base, Gardenhire shooed the runner home.

Whitaker deked a throw to first, whirled, and cut down the runner at the plate.

Thus, there was empathy Sunday for Dave Clark, the Tigers third-base coach who in the third inning waved home Reyes on Jose Iglesias’ double into the right-field corner.

As he rounded the bag, Clark could see this was a miscalculation. He hit the brakes — a frantic “hold” sign. Too late. Reyes had gotten partway down the line, halted, and was nailed returning to the bag.

“It happens,” Gardenhire said, not blaming Clark. “Relay was on the money, and Reyes couldn’t get back.”

Better day

Alex Wilson appeared ready to jump off the Seventh Street Bridge after Thursday’s game between the Pirates and Tigers at PNC Park, which the Pirates won, 1-0, on a ninth-inning, walk-off homer from Corey Dickerson.

Wilson had thrown a cutter up and in that Dickerson hit just far enough to clear the wall.

For a reliever, walk-offs are as painful as the game-ending hit can be for a batter.

And the look on Wilson’s face, not to mention the tone in his voice, spoke of utter disconsolation.

Sunday was Wilson’s first work in four days. And a better story.

Norris started for the Tigers but exited in the third because of a groin strain, Wilson arrived to throw 2.2 innings of scoreless support. He allowed one hit. He struck out a batter.

And he regained some of his old verve.

“I take pride in what I do,” he said afterward, speaking of his new role, which can lean more toward multiple innings than his old late-game shift. “It’s a different role. And I want to do the job.”



On deck: Rays

Series: Three games, Monday-Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit

First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Monday-Tuesday; 1:10 p.m. Wednesday.

TV/radio: All three games on FSD/97.1

Series probables: Monday — Jake Faria (1-1, 6.33) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 7.91); Tuesday — Chris Archer (2-1, 6.61) vs. Matthew Boyd (0-2, 2.74); Wednesday — Blake Snell (4-1, 2.52) vs. Michael Fulmer (1-2, 2.76)