Darkness to light: Tigers' Zack Short states loud case for an extended stay
Detroit — Has a player ever looked prouder or happier to haul the glittering WWE-styled championship belt into the interview room after a victory?
“I’ve been dreaming about this,” said shortstop Zack Short, who was bestowed offensive player of the game honors by his teammates after bashing his first career home run, a two-run blast that broke a 1-1 tie in the Tigers’ 3-1 win over the Astros in Game 1 Saturday.
Short, who also doubled in the game, was summoned from Triple-A Toledo on Friday night to serve as the 27th man for the doubleheader. But, just as he did the first time he was called up earlier this year, he’s making a case to stay.
“He knows the drill,” manager AJ Hinch said. “He knows any given time it could be an opportunity that doesn’t go away, when there is an opportunity for him to stick and play. All he can control is come up and give effort and be prepared and one of these days he doesn’t have to go back.
“I don’t know when that’s going to be, but his job is to continue to control what he can control. He’s good at that.”
It's going to be now. After the game, the Tigers optioned infielder Isaac Paredes back to Toledo, meaning Short will remain with the club.
Just a few weeks ago, Short was experiencing some dark days in Toledo. While he was grinding through a 3-for-27 drought, the Tigers called up Paredes, not him, when Niko Goodrum went on the injured list.
“Last week I was in a really bad spot mentally,” Short said. “I wasn’t having any fun and just really struggling for a few days. I talked to a few people and before you know it, I got a call from Detroit. So you better put all that behind you quick or you’re going to get it shoved.
“I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to come up whenever they want or need me.”
Among the people he reached out to was his friend and former teammate in the Cubs' organization Ian Happ.
“He’s been struggling, too, and he’s on a much bigger stage than I am,” Short said. “I couldn’t imagine what he goes through some days. Just to be able to talk to him, someone who is not seeing your at-bats every day — that helped.
“It’s all we do is play baseball and it’s tough sometimes to get away from that. And you need to some days.”
Short went 6 for 15 in his last four games with Toledo before getting the call, so he got his mind right quickly.
“I’m in a fantastic situation,” Short said. “When I’m not in the big leagues, I’m playing every day in Triple-A and not a lot of people out there can say that. As soon as I start feeling bad for myself, the game will let you know, the game owes you nothing.”
The Tigers came into the games Saturday a collective minus-15 in defensive runs saved at the shortstop position — worst in baseball. And Short is probably the steadiest defender at that position on the 40-man roster.
And he made an excellent diving play on a ball hit to the second base side of the infield, stealing a hit from Robel Garcia.
So, the need is there. And the way he swung the bat — hitting a change-up 396 feet to dead center for a double, then driving a fastball into the seats in right — that will play, too.
“Zack is a good player,” Hinch said. “He found out last night that he was coming up and he found out this morning he was in the starting lineup. Being able to do something positive, I feel good for him. He can do a lot of different things on the field.
“But what a great day for him.”