AP Sports

Tigers’ Hinch sends ‘message’ by benching Javier Báez

TORONTO (AP) — Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Báez was removed from Thursday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays after he lost track of how many outs there were and ran into a double play.

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch removed Báez in the third, one inning after Báez’s gaffe on the bases.

“If you watch the last couple of series, we’ve made a number of mental mistakes, and the one thing we can control is our preparedness and our readiness,” Hinch said after the Tigers’ 3-1 victory. “It’s a message to our whole team that we’ve got to clean that up.”

Facing Chris Bassitt, Báez doubled off the left-field wall with one out in the second for his first extra-base hit this season. Báez didn’t run hard out of the batter’s box, apparently thinking he had homered.

Báez broke for third and rounded the base on Akil Baddoo’s liner to center and was easily doubled up for the third out.

“My mind is everywhere right now,” Báez said. “I’m just trying to focus on my hitting and my timing and other stuff.”

Báez said the reason he lost track of the outs was he was hitting sixth, lower in the lineup that usual, and believed he was Detroit’s third batter of the inning.

Between innings, television cameras caught Hinch and Báez descending the steps that lead from the dugout to the clubhouse for a brief chat. Báez returned to the dugout, grabbed his glove, untucked his shirt and left again.

“Obviously we’ve got to show respect to the game,” Báez said. “He took a decision and I respect that. He’s the manager and we’ve got to respect what he does.”

Hinch said it was “very rare” for Báez to make such a blunder.

“He’s one of the better baseball minds on our team,” Hinch said. “It’s a big move because we take a potent bat out of our lineup.”

This wasn’t the first time Báez has been benched for a baserunning gaffe. In 2021, Cubs manager David Ross removed Báez from a game against Cleveland when Báez was doubled off after running from first to third with one out.

Báez signed a $140 million, six-year contract with Detroit in December 2021. He hit .238 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs in 144 games last season.

Hinch said Báez would return to the lineup for Friday’s home game against San Francisco, adding that the decision to bench him wasn’t easy.

“I don’t want to embarrass anybody,” Hinch said. “I don’t want to lessen our bench. I don’t want to take out one of our starters. He’s a premium player. But I also don’t want to see a team make mental mistakes.”

Tigers first baseman Spencer Torkelson said he had no issue with Hinch making an example of Báez.

“It shows you that it doesn’t matter what your name is, you will get disciplined,” Torkelson said. “I don’t know what guys think about that in the clubhouse but I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Báez said his poor performance so far this season may have factored into Hinch’s decision to take him out of the game.

“Anybody can make mistakes,” Báez said. “At this point, the way we’re playing and the way I’m playing, it’s obviously going to be worse. If I’m hot and I have seven homers and I make that same mistake, I would have stayed in the game. I’ve got no excuses. It’s just part of the game.”

Jonathan Schoop entered at third base in the bottom of the third, with Nick Maton moving from third to shortstop.

Neither Matt Vierling nor Eric Haase was in Detroit’s starting lineup Thursday. Both Vierling and Haase were thrown out on the bases in Wednesday’s 4-3, 10-inning loss. Vierling came on in the seventh as a pinch-hitter and finished the game in right field.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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