Lakeland, Fla. — Full-squad workouts don’t start until Monday, but already outfielder Victor Reyes has made a strong impression.
He’s put 15 solid pounds onto his 6-foot-5 frame, for starters.
“He looks like he’s buffed up quite a bit,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He looks strong.”
He’s also spent time with some of the digital analysis devices the Tigers are using, which break down, among other things, a hitter’s balance, weight shift, swing speed and path.
“Pressure points, they call it,” Gardenhire said. “It showed he was landing on his toes. When he swung, he was falling on his toes too much. He’s adjusted and he has better balance already, just by showing him.”
His batting practice session Saturday — all disclosures and qualifiers apply about spring training batting practice not being predictive of regular season success — was eye-popping. He was squaring up everything, stinging line drives to both gaps, from both sides of the plate.
He's been hitting it like that all week.
This is a vastly different-looking hitter — even in the limited context of a BP session — than the one who scuffled through his Rule 5 rookie season a year ago.
But here is the reality for Reyes in 2019: Barring injuries to Christin Stewart, JaCoby Jones or Mikie Mahtook, and barring a trade or injury to Nick Castellanos, Reyes will be playing every day in a Toledo Mud Hens jersey this season.
“He’s in the mix here,” Gardenhire said Saturday. “But the thing we know about Victor is, he needs at-bats. If I can’t get him every-day at-bats up here, it’s not going to be the right thing for him. He needs every-day at-bats.”
The Tigers took Reyes with the first overall pick in the 2018 Rule 5 draft. The plan from the start was to get him through last season — he had to remain on the active roster all season or else be offered back to the Diamondbacks or be put on waivers — then put him back into the minor-league system for another year of seasoning.
Having a roster spot taken up by Reyes, who for the first couple months was used mostly as a pinch-runner, was a hardship for Gardenhire. But Reyes worked extremely hard, especially on strength and conditioning, and by the end of the season was a useful player, starting 31 games in the second half and hitting .270 in September, and notching his first career home run.
“He’s got some experience now,” Gardenhire said. “But he needs at-bats. He’s got himself in great shape and he’s looking good. We will see how it goes in camp, but I don’t write him off. But the plan was to get him through last season, get him back in our system and let him develop.”
His big, monster-sized black truck has been sitting in player’s parking lot at Marchant Stadium the last couple of days, but the truck’s owner was back in Oklahoma.
Michael Fulmer left the team Friday to tend to a personal issue. He missed workouts Friday and Saturday.
“He’s got some family stuff to take care of,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t know for sure, but I heard he will be back (Sunday).”