How Detroit Tigers SS Zack Short is working to transform swing: 'It's (expletive) hard'

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TORONTO — Watching Detroit Tigers shortstop Zack Short take swings — so many swings — before games is exhausting.

Now imagine being Short, who actually has to take those hacks to transform his mechanics during his debut MLB season. The benefit of his adjustment was displayed Friday. He drilled a crucial line-drive single to left against left-hander Robbie Ray in the eighth inning of a 4-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

"Trying to change at the highest level, it's (expletive) hard," Short said Saturday. "Excuse me, but you know, it's hard. It's tough to make a really drastic swing change when you're facing the best guys in the world."

A solid defender at shortstop, Short has too much power for his own good. He won't stick in the majors if his second-best attribute is home-run power built on insane launch angles. The 26-year-old can be a more complete hitter with a level swing, which should help him improve his batting average and situational hitting.

"You don't want to be too pushy," Short said. "I'm always going to have that loop to it or whatever, but if I can be more in the zone and on-plane with it, as opposed to underneath it, there's going to be a lot more room for error. It's all about the most room for error."

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Detroit Tigers shortstop Zack Short (59) slides in to score against Toronto Blue Jays in the eighth inning at Rogers Centre.
Detroit Tigers shortstop Zack Short (59) slides in to score against Toronto Blue Jays in the eighth inning at Rogers Centre.

Short is hitting .150 with six home runs, 19 RBIs, 19 walks and 52 strikeouts over 46 games.

He made his MLB debut in late April but didn't get a chance to make a long-term impact until June 26, when he was called up as the 27th man for a doubleheader against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park. After blasting his first MLB home run in Game 1 of the doubleheader, he remained on the roster.

From July 7 through Aug. 12, a span of 28 games, Short went 7-for-78 (.090) with eight walks and 29 strikeouts.

"It got the point where it was a month-plus where I felt like I couldn't even (draw a) walk," Short said. "I was swinging at everything. ... I would swing at the rosin bag. If you were to throw me something, I was swinging at it. As soon as I saw something down in the zone, because I know I can hit it, I was swinging. Even if it's a slider that's bouncing, I was trying to yank it somewhere."

In his past three starts, though, Short is 3-for-13 (.231) with one homer, two RBIs and four strikeouts. Short said he has gotten more comfortable over the past two weeks with his redefined swing and is hitting line-drive outs instead of pop outs.

He believes consistent hits will soon arrive.

"I've always been skittish about being on top (of the ball)," Short said. "If you become too on-top, you'll cut the ball and it'll go even higher up. There's a fine line to being too direct or too underneath. I'm trying to find that middle ground. ... We're trying to be more on-top.

"There are some guys who try to hit the ball right off the plate, and their swing is going to be a little more level. If I did that, I would take it to the extreme and either go straight down or straight up, and I would be in even more trouble."

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Hutchison returns

Right-hander Drew Hutchison starts Sunday for the Tigers at Rogers Centre, a place the 30-year-old called home for four seasons, in 2012 and again from 2014-16.

Despite being Toronto's Opening Day starter in 2015, Hutchison was optioned back and forth near the end of his tenure with the Blue Jays. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Francisco Liriano, Harold Ramirez and Reese McGuire in August 2016.

"It's the first time I've been back," Hutchison said. "It's good to be back in the city, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I've always just turned the page and doing what I can do to be in the big leagues. It's been a fight for me the last few years."

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Detroit Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner pats starting pitcher Drew Hutchison before Hutchison is relieved during the second inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner pats starting pitcher Drew Hutchison before Hutchison is relieved during the second inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

For the Blue Jays, Hutchison posted a 4.92 ERA, 128 walks and 374 strikeouts over 406⅓ innings in 76 games. He continued his career with the Pirates (2016), Philadelphia Phillies (2016, 2018) and Texas Rangers (2018) before joining the Tigers in 2021.

"I think my stuff is closer to where it was when I was here (with the Blue Jays)," Hutchison said.

He made his first MLB appearance since 2018 last Sunday at Comerica Park, allowing six runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts. He admitted he needs to improve his fastball command against the Blue Jays' powerful lineup.

"I was just a little off," Hutchison said. "It's a little different, but I don't think nerves got the better of me or anything like that. I just didn't execute pitches."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Zack Short working hard to transform swing