The Tigers demoted Baddoo to the Mud Hens on Monday. He is expected to be in Toledo’s lineup Tuesday. Poor performance sparked the Tigers’ decision to send him down; the 23-year-old hit .140 in 17 games.
“You always got to make good out of it,” Baddoo said Monday. “It’s unfortunate, but I’m going to get the reps that I need and be ready to come back. … I definitely want to be back where I feel I belong. It’s the same mindset, be here as quick as possible. “
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To replace Baddoo on the roster, right-handed reliever Rony Garcia was called up from Toledo.
Another roster move will need to be made before Wednesday’s game, as left-hander Joey Wentz, currently in Triple-A, is tabbed for his MLB debut in the fourth of five games against the Oakland Athletics.
The Tigers, coming out of spring training, didn’t expect they would need to demote Baddoo. After all, the 2020 Rule 5 draft pick — who hadn’t played above High-A in the minor leagues — burst onto the scene last season with a .259 batting average in 124 games.
“The reality is, this is where we’re at, and we need him to decompress, get himself right and play every day,” manager AJ Hinch said Monday. “He can really help us. Our best team has him on it. But right now, we’ve not been able to get him started and get him going consistently to where we feel like it’s beneficial for him to be here.”
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Spanning Baddoo’s surprising magical 2021 season, he tossed in 20 doubles, seven triples and 13 home runs. He also tallied 18 stolen bases in 22 attempts. This time around, though, he boasts just two extra-base hits and one stolen base in two attempts.
Baddoo’s on-base percentage dropped from .330 in 2021 to .218 in 2022; his two-strike batting average plummeted, too, from .193 to .121.
“He got caught in between of what kind of hitter that he wants to be,” Hinch said. “I know everybody seeks damage. Everybody wants power. To create that, you gotta sacrifice something.”
Hinch said Baddoo, in search of power, sacrificed his control of the strike zone and ability to hit with two strikes. He wants him to take a contact-first approach in certain situations at the plate, rather than focusing on hitting for power.
“Triple-A is going to be a better place for him to work on bunts,” Hinch said, “to work on two-strike hitting, to work on contact being his friend and not selling out so much to the perfect pitch and trying to do damage from the get-go. That’s not to say he’s not going to do damage but selling out to do it is probably not a good idea.”
Baddoo has a 27.3% strikeout rate in 2022.
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He has played 141 games in his two-year MLB career, hitting .246 with a 26.6% strikeout rate and 9.1% walk rate. For the Mud Hens, Baddoo gets to be in everyday starting lineup.
Baddoo played four games for Triple-A in 2021 as part of a rehab assignment.
“Just to get more at-bats, just getting my reps so I can be back here,” Baddoo said. “I feel like I’m best here. I’m a big-league player, with my speed and my energy and my athleticism. Just getting my at-bats down in Triple-A.”
Sending Baddoo to the minors leaves the Tigers with three true outfielders: Robbie Grossman, Derek Hill and Austin Meadows. Utility players Eric Haase and Willi Castro can play the outfield, as well.
Outfielder Victor Reyes, on the injured list, begins a rehab assignment Tuesday.
“We are going to ask our guys to do something a little bit different while we reshape this and ask our guys to do their best,” Hinch said. “We feel like we’re going to be fine, but certainly going to be a challenge.”
Castro will start in center field for Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader. It will be his first MLB start in center. He has 15 games (14 starts) of experience as a left fielder in his career.
“We can’t expect him to be perfect out there,” Hinch said of Castro, hitting .240 in 12 games. “He’s gotten some reps. He’s done a little bit in the minors. He was out here early today.”
For now, Hill is the primary center fielder.
“We also can’t expect Derek Hill to play every single inning of every single game,” Hinch said. “That’s not been productive for him heath-wise.”
How long Baddoo stays in Toledo will be performance-based, meaning he could return to the Tigers quickly, or he could be absent for the foreseeable future.
Hinch is confident Baddoo will approach his demotion with professionalism.
“This is not an indictment on his ability, his future, his present,” Hinch said. “It just changes where he’s playing. He can be back here in short order. I think this will be good for him. He’s not the first player that has to do this. He’s not going to be the last player. And he’s going to take the right approach because he’s Akil Baddoo.”