Tigers' Victor Reyes looks to keep producing in return from Toledo

Casey Harrison
The Detroit News

Detroit — Sometimes some time away can work wonders.

Outfielder Victor Reyes was recalled late Sunday and is back with the Tigers after a 12-game stint with Triple-A Toledo. He started in center field and hit eighth as the team opened a seven-game homestand with a four-game series against the Cleveland Indians on Monday.

Reyes had struggled after making the major league roster out of spring training — slashing .143/.169/.238 through 21 games, prompting manager AJ Hinch to option Reyes to Toledo on May 8

It turns out, he may have only needed to fine-tune some things. Reyes went on a tear in Triple-A, hitting .391 with a 1.026 OPS in 46 at-bats. He also tallied four doubles, a home run, six RBIs, seven walks and enjoyed an 11-game hitting streak. 

Victor Reyes had five multi-hit outings during a 12-game stint in Triple-A Toledo.

But as Reyes said before Monday's game, being patient to overcome those struggles isn't always easy.

"It's a long season," Reyes said via team translator. "Those things happen and you have to be prepared."

Reyes, 26, and a former Rule-5 pick, said Monday he made some changes to his timing, among other adjustments, which also resulted in improved plate discipline. He had just eight strikeouts (17.4% strikeout rate) with Toledo compared to 28.6% with the Tigers before being sent down. 

He's hoping those will result in a return to the offensive output he had over the last two seasons, where he slashed .293/.327/.414 in 126 games. 

"I want to take advantage of every opportunity the manager has now that I'm back," Reyes said. "Just bring all my help and support my guys and win games because in the end, that's the goal."

Hinch said what got Reyes back to the bigs was an ability to control the strike zone and produce better quality at-bats. He even earned the praise of Mud Hens manager Tom Prince for playing all three outfield positions. 

More: Tigers draft watch: What does Detroit do if Jack Leiter, Marcelo Mayer are off the board?

"He took it to heart that he needed to go down and perform to get back," Hinch said of Reyes. "I think that warrants an opportunity — when a player takes what you say in the meeting when you send him down." 

Reyes' callup came at the expense of veteran JaCoby Jones, who was hitting .170 and had 42 strikeouts through 100 at-bats. Jones was last in Triple-A in 2019.

Hinch hopes Jones will be able to take a page out of Reyes' book and find more consistency with his bat. 

"My message to him was we've got to get it figured out at a lower level, at Triple-A," Hinch said. "I don't think he's a Triple-A player. I think it's a place to go to find his swing and find his approach. 

"It'll be the best thing for him. It's a time in his career where he can reset himself and he'll have to fight back to being an everyday player again." 

Jones has been with the Tigers since making his debut in 2016. He's always been viewed as a plus-defensive option in center field, while his best offensive effort came during last year's shortened season, when he hit .268 with an .849 OPS and five home runs. His next highest year-end average was .235 when he played in 88 games in 2019.

Jones is the second longtime Tiger to receive a demotion this month. Longtime reliever Buck Farmer — who entered the season the second-longest tenured Tiger behind Miguel Cabrera — was designated for assignment on May 7. 

Hinch emphasized he isn't trying to be punitive toward players who may be struggling. But at the majors, Hinch said, it's up to him to hold his team accountable.

"I think we need to have a standard here as the Tigers. The performance does matter," Hinch said. "There is a bar that needs to be raised and if you don't, we have solutions in other ways, then we want to create options for ourselves.

"We're into winning games. We're into playing at a high level. That doesn't mean that every player that struggles isn't going to get sent down as some kind of message. It means that we have to hold ourselves to a high bar at this level."

More fans coming soon

In a statement to The News on Monday, the Tigers said they will be lifting capacity limits starting June 8 as the team welcomes the Seattle Mariners to start a six-game homestand. 

"With the State of Michigan lifting capacity restrictions at outdoor events beginning June 1, the Tigers are thrilled to welcome back the full roar of the crowd to Comerica Park," communications director Chad Crunk said in an email. "Starting with the homestand that kicks off on June 8 vs. Seattle, Tigers fans will have access to a wider selection of seats as Comerica Park returns to full capacity.

"Presently, individual game tickets are only available for June games, which can be purchased at Tigers.com/Tickets. More information to come regarding when individual tickets for games at Comerica Park from July through the end of the regular season will be on sale."

More: Tigers start selling 'wider selection' of seats for all June games

Ramos back on IL

The Tigers announced that veteran catcher Wilson Ramos was placed on the 10-day injured list with a lumbar spine strain. Its an injury that's nagged Ramos since being placed on the IL with the same injury on May 7, Hinch said. 

Hinch said he and Ramos had a talk and determined another stint on the IL was best for all parties involved.

"The fact that he's going out there less than 100% doesn't work," Hinch said. "He didn't want to perform the way he was performing. He admitted the back was bothering him a little more than he admitted before and we came to the conclusion that we had to get it right and go on the IL."

Hinch didn't try to offer a timeline as to when Ramos could see a return, but said the catcher will go to the team's spring training facility in Lakeland, Florida, and go through a full rehab process. 

Taking his spot on the 26-man roster is left-handed reliever Derek Holland, who was activated from the IL after going down with a left shoulder strain on May 6. Holland, however, did make a pair of rehab starts with Toledo and allowed three runs, four hits, a walk and a strikeout over two innings.

Holland, 34, will have the chance to reach a career milestone his next time on the mound. He's one strikeout shy of 1,200 for his career. 

Fun with Phil

In lieu of Phil Mickelson's PGA Championship win over the weekend at the ripe age of 50, Hinch was asked about the time Mickelson spent a day down with the Mud Hens years ago. Hinch was catching for the Tigers at the time, but was in Toledo rehabbing an injury.

Hinch said Mickelson threw batting practice, but then-manager Larry Parrish wouldn't let the hitters take part. So it was up to the pitchers to flatter the six-time major championship winner.

"Phil hung out in the dugout for that game and got to live the childhood dream of being a pseudo-professional baseball player," Hinch said, laughing at the question. "I didn't golf as much as I do now. I wish I could go back in time and revisit that time."

As for Mickelson's stuff, Hinch said he's glad Lefty stuck with golf.

"Pretty soft," Hinch said. "I don't think you could tell the difference between his primary and secondary pitches. He gave a valiant effort, I'll give him that."


Twitter: @Casey_Harrison1

Indians at Tigers

► First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Comerica Park, Detroit 

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LHP Tarik Skubal (1-6, 5.45), Tigers: Skubal looks to build off his best start of the year, where he earned his first win after scattering four hits and striking out nine over five innings against the Mariners. In two starts against the Indians, he's allowed nine hits and eight runs in 9⅓ innings.

RHP Aaron Civale (6-1, 3.30), Indians: Civale is coming off a strong start where he outdueled Angels' Shohei Ohtani, allowing two runs on four hits over seven innings. He's 2-0 against the Tigers this season, giving up four runs on five hits with 12 strikeouts in 14⅔ innings.