Detroit Tigers' Akil Baddoo makes MLB debut; Miguel Cabrera health update

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Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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The time has come for Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo to make his MLB debut.

While Baddoo's first taste of the majors hasn't been anticipated for years, such as the case with Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, the 22-year-old got on the radar of the organization, manager AJ Hinch and the fans in spring training.

"I would imagine he's going to be pretty excited to play today," Hinch said Sunday.

Baddoo, a Rule 5 draft pick in December, went 13-for-40 (.325) with two doubles, five homers, 11 RBIs, 10 walks and 14 strikeouts. He had four stolen bases in six chances. If he doesn't stay on the active 26-man roster for the entire 2021 season, he must be offered back to the Minnesota Twins.

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So far, Baddoo has passed every challenge.

On Sunday, Hinch gave him another test: Baddoo got the start in left field against Cleveland Indians right-hander Aaron Civale, as the Tigers look to start the season with a three-game series sweep of their American League Central rivals.

"Let your family know you're getting your first start on Sunday," Hinch said he told Baddoo. "But I'm going to try to get you in the game Saturday if the game presents itself."

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Detroit Tigers center fielder Akil Baddoo (60) reacts after hitting a home run during the second inning against the New York Yankees on March 29, 2021, at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.
Detroit Tigers center fielder Akil Baddoo (60) reacts after hitting a home run during the second inning against the New York Yankees on March 29, 2021, at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.

Baddoo hasn't played above High-A in the minor leagues and underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2019. That year, he hit .214 with four homers and nine RBIs — with 12 walks and 39 strikeouts — in 29 games for High-A Fort Myers. In 2018, he had a .243 batting average, 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 113 games for Low-A Cedar Rapids.

Yet Baddoo left his mark on spring training, and he was rewarded with a spot on the team. By keeping the up-and-comer, Hinch married himself to five outfielders, at least to start the season.

Hinch will shuffle Baddoo in with a more experienced four-man crew: Robbie Grossman, Nomar Mazara, JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes. Oftentimes, he will be used as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

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"He earned his right to be on this team, and he's going to earn the playing time if he can continue that type of performance," Hinch said. "It's an uncomfortable environment for most when you come into the big leagues and try to make an impression. He's been comfortable in his own skin from the beginning."

He is the No. 24 prospect in the Tigers' farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Health update on Miggy

Baddoo almost made his debut in Saturday's 5-2 win over the Indians.

"I asked him when he was in the on-deck circle yesterday, 'How is your heartbeat?' " Hinch said. "He looked at me like I was crazy, like it's fine, I'm about to go play baseball. He's pretty cool."

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Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera keeps his hands warm during practice on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Comerica Park, a day before Opening Day against the Cleveland Indians.
Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera keeps his hands warm during practice on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Comerica Park, a day before Opening Day against the Cleveland Indians.

In the eighth inning, designated hitter Miguel Cabrera's "whole body" was cramping, Hinch explained after the game. That's why Baddoo stood in the on-deck circle, ready to take his place as a pinch-hitter. However, the third out was made before he could get a plate appearance.

The 37-year-old, in his 19th MLB season, wasn't included in Sunday's lineup for the series finale. But Hinch is not worried about Cabrera's health.

"I was looking for a day off for him this homestand," Hinch said. "It's convenient, given he was a little bit sore coming out of yesterday, and I want to get everybody some playing time. A little bit of both, but nothing I'm concerned about at this point."

Through two games, Cabrera is 2-for-7 (.286) with one home run, three RBIs, one walk and one strikeout. He crushed MLB's first homer of the new season in the first inning against Indians ace Shane Bieber on Opening Day.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Akil Baddoo makes debut; Miguel Cabrera health update