Cleveland — Eugenio Suarez hit a total of 33 home runs in six minor-league seasons in the Tigers' organization. And in 2014, he hit four in 85 games with the Tigers. Needless to say, for those who were around him then, it's more than a little amazing to see what he's doing now.
Suarez, the Cincinnati Reds third baseman, has hit 48 home runs and now owns the single-season home run record for Venezuelan-born players.
"I texted him," Miguel Cabrera said before the game Thursday. "But he's big-league now, he don't text me back (laughing). He's big time."
Cabrera could tell, even back in 2014, that Suarez would hit for power.
"When he was here, we knew he had a lot of pop," Cabrera said. "We thought he could hit like 25 or 30, but never like this. I think he's going to hit 50, you know?"
The Tigers traded Suarez to the Reds for pitcher Alfredo Simon in December of 2014. But Cabrera nixed the thought that Suarez would have threatened 50 home runs in a season playing in Detroit.
"Here? I don't think so," Cabrera said. "I don't think he'd get 40 home runs at Comerica Park. Thirty, OK. But 40? I don't know. He's in the right ballpark and the right division, too."
Mike Hessman, the minor-league home run king (433) and now the hitting coach at Triple-A Toledo, played with Suarez at Toledo. His reaction to Suarez's feat was the same as Cabrera's.
"I definitely saw that he had some pop," he said. "But this much? I don't know."
Hessman only played one season with Suarez in 2014 when he was 36 years old, 13 years older than Suarez at the time.
"He was definitely a guy who could handle the bat," Hessman said. "I knew he had some bat control. He was a smart hitter. He knew what he was doing with the bat. You could tell that he definitely had the skills in him.
"He was still young at that time, just coming up. But he was definitely hitterish. He looked the part...He had some pop in his bat and it just developed throughout the years. He's having one heck of a season, that's for sure. That's awesome to see and awesome to watch."
Manager Ron Gardenhire chuckled at the notion of restricting reliever Nick Ramirez's workload.
“No,” he said. “He can pitch. He’s an innings-eater.”
Ramirez, who didn’t make his big-league debut until May 11, leads all rookie relievers with 76 innings this season. It’s the most innings thrown by a Tigers rookie reliever since Joel Zumaya threw 83.1 in 2006.
Counting his 23.1 innings thrown at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this year, Ramirez’s 99.1 innings is 20 more than he’s thrown in either of his two previous seasons.
“Everything feels fine,” Ramirez said. “I’m just trying to take care of myself and make sure my body holds up. I’ve been putting in more work conditioning-wise to be prepared to pitch.”
Ramirez isn’t an ordinary rookie reliever, mind you. He’s 30 years old and before 2017 was a first baseman doing a slow climb in the Brewers organization. He hadn’t pitched since his final year at Cal State Fullerton in 2011.
The body has some years on it but the mileage in the arm is low.
“Yeah, I did have that four- or five-year gap without pitching and I think that was beneficial,” he said.
It’s been an up-and-down ride for Ramirez, to be sure. In his first nine outings, working mostly in long relief, he posted a 2.25 ERA with an opponent batting average of .184. In his last 20 outings, his ERA is 4.55 with opponents hitting .302.
“The times I’ve gotten in trouble is when I’ve tried to do too much,” he said. “For me, it’s trusting my stuff and knowing my stuff is good enough to get people out. I don’t have to do anything extra to get an out or a swing and miss.
“When I do try to do too much, that’s when stuff gets left up and they put the barrel on it.”
Ramirez features an elite change-up. He throws it 32 percent of the time and has an opponent average of .224 with a 34.5 percent strikeout rate and a 42 percent swing-and-miss rate. He has begun to use more cutters and sinkers to get hitters off the change-up, but that’s still a work in progress for him.
“I don’t think there’s an over-reliance on the change-up, but the scouting report is out there and they know I have a good change-up, and they know I’m going to throw it,” Ramirez said. “Hitters are going to sit on something they know they’re going to get and big-league hitters aren’t going to miss pitches they are waiting for.
“I think just having a mix of everything is key. But if I execute a good change-up down, it’s either going to be an out or a swing and miss.”
Ramirez was happy to hear he has no workload restrictions. It’s the last thing he wants.
“In my opinion, I’d rather throw as much as I can this year,” he said. “That way, next year there is no problem (with innings) and we can just keep moving forward.”
Around the horn
Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd was back Thursday after spending the week in Seattle tending to the funeral of his paternal grandfather, John Boyd, who died at 89.
"He led a good, happy life," Boyd said. "And he's in a better place now."
Boyd is scheduled to start Sunday against the White Sox.
...This is Fan Appreciation Weekend at Comerica Park. As part of that, the Tigers are offering 25 percent on purchases at The D Shop. Publications, game-used or autographed memorabilia and clearance items are excluded.
On deck: White Sox
Series: Three-game series at Comerica Park, Detroit
First pitch: Friday – 7:10 p.m.; Saturday – 6:10 p.m.; Sunday – 1:10 p.m.
TV/radio: All games on FSD/97.1
Probables: Friday – RHP Dylan Cease (3-7, 6.18) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-11, 6.32); Saturday – RHP Ivan Nova (10-12, 4.83) vs. LHP Tyler Alexander (1-3, 4.87); Sunday – RHP Reynaldo Lopez (9-14, 5.44) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (8-11, 4.54).
►Cease, White Sox: He made his big-league debut and got his first big-league win against the Tigers on July 3. In fact, two of his three wins this season have come against the Tigers. But he’s run the rapids through 13 starts. He struck out 11 against the Indians three starts ago, then followed that up by walking five in 3.1 innings against the Angels.
►Zimmermann, Tigers: He hasn’t won a start at Comerica Park in over a year, not since he beat the Cubs on Aug. 21, 2018. Fourteen straight starts without a win at home. He is 0-7 in 10 home starts this season, giving up 39 runs with 35 strikeouts in 50 innings.