April 14, 2023

Tigers’ Javier Baez pulled from game after gaffe on bases

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

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch removed Baez in the third, one inning after Baez’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, Baez doubled off the left-field wall with one out in the second for his first extra-base hit this season. Baez didn’t run hard out of the batter’s box, apparently thinking he had homered.

Baez 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,” Baez said. “I’m just trying to focus on my hitting and my timing and other stuff.”

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

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

“Obviously we’ve got to show respect to the game,” Baez 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 Baez 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 Baez has been benched for a baserunning gaffe. In 2021, Cubs manager David Ross removed Baez from a game against Cleveland when Baez was doubled off after running from first to third with one out.

Baez 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 Baez 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 Baez.

“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.”

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

“Anybody can make mistakes,” Baez 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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