Tigers manager AJ Hinch bracing for Bronx jeers at Yankee Stadium
Chicago — Tigers manager AJ Hinch knows he’s probably not going to get a hero’s welcome when he’s introduced Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
It’ll be New York fans first real chance to show him how they feel about his role in the sign-stealing scandal that may or may not have impacted the Yankees' loss to the Astros in the 2017 American League Championship Series.
“The New York fan base is as passionate as any you could imagine,” Hinch said. “In good times, in bad times, rivalries, love, hate — they encompass fandom. I know exactly what to expect going to New York. But I can’t do anything about it.
“I have to focus on how to beat them. I know we will be ready to play, and I will have to handle whatever Bronx welcome I get.”
Hinch’s Astros beat the Yankees in seven games on their way to the 2017 World Series title. Though the MLB investigation showed Hinch was not an active participant in using technology to steal and decode signs, he was suspended for a year (and fired by the Astros) because he didn’t do enough as manager to stop it.
“I will never move on (from that) internally,” Hinch said. “I know exactly how wrong things were and that I’m going to have to pay the consequences continually as I go through my career. It’s attached to me and I understand it.
“So it isn’t easy or hard to move on from. It’s just my reality.”
The Tigers’ minor-league affiliates announced their 2021 rosters Thursday ahead of their seasons opening May 4.
“I’m just happy there’s a projected start time to the minor-league season and it looks like we’re going to be able to get these guys up and running and playing games,” Hinch said. “That’s a job well-done by a lot of people around the league and throughout the organizations.
“It’s very important for these young players to play, so hats off to them. Hope we don’t screw it up between now and then.”
As expected, the Tigers top prospect Spencer Torkelson will open the season at High-A West Michigan. The Whitecaps roster also includes catcher Dillon Dingler (ranked No. 5) and outfielders Daniel Cabrera (No. 6) and Parker Meadows (No. 8).
No. 2-ranked prospect, Riley Greene, will start at Double-A Erie, skipping High-A. Also starting at Erie is shortstop Ryan Kreidler, who hasn’t played above short-season A-ball but made a strong impression in spring training.
“His baseball acumen will push him farther than his experience,” Hinch said. “He’s been at our alternate site and he’s stood out as a guy who can handle that type of competition.”
Kriedler is 23 and played three seasons at UCLA before the Tigers took him in the fourth round in 2019.
“Let’s see how he takes the jump,” Hinch said. “Challenge players and see how they respond. If it doesn’t go well, it’s not the worst thing in the world if he has to go to High-A. If he handles it, then maybe we’re fast-tracking him to being a possibility here.”
Prospects starting at Triple-A Toledo include pitcher Matt Manning (No. 3), infielder Isaac Paredes (No. 4), Joey Wentz (No. 7, injured) and outfielder Daz Cameron (No. 9).
With the minor-league season starting, Hinch said he won’t carry as many players on the taxi squad for road games.
Searching for Norris
Daniel Norris, before the doubleheader Thursday, had made four appearances in 15 days. Just 2.2 innings of work. Not the role or workload he or even Hinch anticipated coming out of spring training.
“That’s been a product of the rotation (its effectiveness) and some of the opponents we’ve had,” Hinch said. “But D-No is very much a weapon. I don’t care what the numbers look like right now. That’s going to resolve itself over time.
“He’s got a lot of weapons. I’ve got to make sure I use (him) as much as I can when the opportunity presents. I don’t think this is the way it’s going to be moving forward.”
Norris gave up six runs in his first four outings, four in one against the Indians. But he hasn’t given up a run in the four outings since.
“I think his confidence is fine and his pitches are fine,” Hinch said. “His numbers are inflated but that doesn’t dictate anything for me in April. I still view him as very much a viable part of our winning culture.”
Around the horn
Outfielder Derek Hill was selected off the taxi squad to serve as the 27th player for the doubleheader Thursday. He was available for both games.
On deck: Tigers at Yankees
► Series: Three games at Yankee Stadium, New York
► First pitch: Friday — 7:05 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday — 1:05 p.m.
► TV/radio: Friday — BSD/97.1 FM; Saturday — BSD-plus/MLBN, 97.1 FM; Sunday — BSDet/MLBN, 97.1 FM
► Probables: Friday — LHP Tarik Skubal (0-3, 5.21) vs. Gerrit Cole (3-1, 1.71); Saturday — RHP Spencer Turnbull (1-1, 3.27) vs. RHP Jameson Taillon (0-2, 6.23); Sunday — RHP Jose Urena (1-3, 3.77) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (1-2, 4.15).
► Skubal, Tigers: Making his first traditional starts after two tandem outings out of the bullpen. He’s still working to get his fastball back on track. Through the first few weeks he’s struggled both with command and consistent velocity with the pitch.
► Cole, Yankees: He’s back on a Cy Young pace, leading the American League in WHIP (0.726) and strikeouts per nine (14.2). He’s got the third-lowest ERA (1.71) and his 50 strikeouts is third most. His fastball is averaging 97 mph and he has a 50% swing-and-miss rate with his slider.