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Tigers rookie Daz Cameron starting to look and feel like he belongs

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Minneapolis — Daz Cameron’s first thought, after he smoked a pitch from Cody Stashak in the fifth inning Tuesday (the ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 104 mph), was that he hit it to the wrong part of Target Field.

The part that is patrolled by Twins center fielder Byron Buxton.

“Oh yeah, man, when I hit it I thought he would get to it,” Cameron said. “I’ve been seeing so many highlight reels on ESPN and 'SportsCenter' of him making catches at the wall and running into the wall. I’m not going to lie, I thought he had a chance at first.”

Daz Cameron

The ball was hit so hard, on a direct line straight to the base of the center-field wall (406 feet), that all Buxton could do was play the carom.

“When I got to second base I was like, ‘I just hit a line drive over Buxton’s head,’” Cameron said.

It was a good moment for the Tigers rookie who, quite honestly, is due a few of those after all he’s gone through the last couple of years — from nearly making the big-league club out of spring training in 2019, to enduring a miserable season in Triple-A last year, not even getting a September call-up and then being felled by COVID-19 and missing all of summer camp.

“The kids are starting to make a good showing for themselves,” interim manager Lloyd McClendon said when asked about Cameron and Isaac Paredes. “This is a tough league and from a mental standpoint I think they’ve handled it pretty good.”

McClendon was among those in the Tigers camp that saw plenty of encouraging signs even when Cameron started 1-for-27 with 11 strikeouts.

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“The mental aspect of this game is very important and we watch that very closely,” McClendon said. “Young players can get very frustrated when they are not getting positive results at this level. But even when he was scuffling, he was still barreling balls up, just not getting positive results.

“But the swing itself was telling us he had a chance to be successful. It’s nice to see him getting those positive results to build the confidence.”

Ron Gardenhire’s last managerial move before his retirement was to use Cameron to pinch hit in the ninth inning last Friday with the Tigers down 1-0. Cameron tripled off Indians closer Brad Hand. Since then, he’s gone 5-for-12, hitting a pair of doubles Tuesday night.

“That being his last move, that was special, definitely something I’m going to remember,” Cameron said. “Gardy was a good manager with a lot of wins, so I am definitely proud to be part of that accomplishment.”

Cameron said he didn’t make any major mechanical adjustments. Mostly, he just trusted his process.

“I definitely had to keep that confidence, knowing that I can play up here,” he said. “Knowing I can compete every day at this level. For me to keep putting in the hard work, keep taking care of myself as far as the process goes, that’s where I leave it.

“I feel like the hard work will pay off if I just keep doing the right things as a teammate and a player.”

There’s one other thing he needs to adjust — his road batting helmet. It was bobbing all over his head and distracting him mightily as he tried, unsuccessfully, to score from second on Tuesday.

“I got to home plate and Eddie Rosario threw me out and I just smiled,” he said. “I was like, ‘Man, my helmet was bobbing everywhere.’”

Romine rests

It’s been a rough September for Tigers catcher Austin Romine. Physically, he’s taken a beating from foul balls (hit by opponents and one by himself that bruised his knee and knocked him out of the lineup) and from opponents’ back-swings. Josh Donaldson was the latest to conk him on the noggin Tuesday night.

McClendon gave Romine the night off Wednesday to rest and heal.

Romine is 5-for-42 this month, with 20 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances. Pitchers for the most part have been pounding him up in the zone and beating him with fastballs.

“He’s conscious of that,” hitting coach Joe Vavra said. “They are pitching him up in the zone and he’s struggled with balls up there. But he can’t quite understand why he’s fouling so many pitches back. He’s on it, but he’s fouling them straight back.

“He’s getting fastballs and he’s just not squaring them up. That’s not a timing issue. Maybe it’s a head movement issue. We’ve been working to stabilize his back leg.”

Around the horn

Willi Castro just keeps raking. He produced his 11th multi-hit game of the season Tuesday. He’s hit safely in 22 of his last 26 games — slashing .358/.398/.558 with three doubles, two triples, four home runs and 17 RBIs in that stretch.

Among rookies with a minimum of 100 at-bats, Castro is tops in batting average (.336) and slugging (.531).

...So why was Tarik Skubal wearing Matthew Boyd’s glove Tuesday?

“My gloves didn’t make the trip to Minneapolis,” Skubal said sheepishly. “They’re in Detroit. But they’re getting shipped to Kansas City.”

…Paredes took an eight-game hitting streak into play Wednesday. He’s hitting .320 over that stretch. He’s also made a key defensive play in the ninth inning Tuesday. He made a quick dive and got to a hard-hit ball by Buxton. He got up quick and got a force out at second base.

On deck: Royals

Series: Four-game series at Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

First pitch: Thursday-Friday — 8:05 p.m.; Saturday — 7:05 p.m.; Sunday — 3:05 p.m.

TV/radio: Thursday — FS1, FSD/97.1; Friday-Sunday — FSD/97.1

Probables: Thursday — RHP Michael Fulmer (0-2, 8.17) vs. LHP Kris Bubic (1-6, 3.97); Friday — RHP Spencer Turnbull (4-3, 3.83) vs. RHP Brad Keller (4-3, 2.77); Saturday — LHP Matthew Boyd (2-7, 6.96) vs. RHP Carlos Hernandez (0-0, 3.46); Sunday — LHP Tarik Skubal (1-3, 6.00) vs. RHP Brady Singer (3-5, 4.40)

►Fulmer, Tigers: This will be the 10th and final three-inning start of the season for Fulmer, who is coming off an encouraging outing against the Indians, blanking them on one hit over three innings.

►Bubic, Royals: This will be the Tigers’ first look at this top Royals prospect. He relies heavily on 91-mph fastball and a changeup. He posted 28 strikeouts with the fastball and 13 with the changeup.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky