The Detroit Tigers have had their fair share of players on rehab assignments in the minor leagues this season.
As they work their way back up, they have been able to experience the automated ball-strike (ABS) system that is being tested out with Triple-A clubs, including the Toledo Mud Hens. Most recently, Nick Maton, Akil Baddoo and Riley Greene had at-bats with the Mud Hens within the last month and got to experience the technology that one day soon might make its way to the big leagues.
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“I think there’s been generalized positive feedback on the on the ABS system,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said before Friday’s series opener against the Padres. “I think the players like having the control of the at-bat, where they feel like they have a vote in the in a call, how exactly the strike zone is or how it’s aligned. We seem to accept what’s on the screen and what’s inside or outside the box much more than we do at human’s decision.”
This year’s trial run in the minor leagues could result in it making it to Comerica Park and the other 29 major league stadiums as soon as next season. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has told multiple media outlets that the ABS system will likely be in the majors, in some form or another.
Although the feedback he’s heard has been generally positive, Hinch believes there’s still more questions than answers with the new technology. He also spoke to the importance of being able to identify pitches quickly in order to make good decisions at the plate.
“I think we all continue to argue over what an actual strike is,” Hinch said. “Does it have to touch any of the plate, or does it have to cover the full plate and if we could all agree on that, then we could probably come to a conclusion as to where is the strike a strike and where is the ball a ball?
Inching closer to the mound
It’s no secret Tigers pitchers have struggled to stay healthy this year.
Starting pitchers Spencer Turnbull (neck), Matthew Boyd (pitching elbow) and Casey Mize (pitching elbow, back) and relief pitcher Will Vest (right knee) are all currently on the injured list, with Vest out since June, Turnbull since May and Mize since last season. Boyd had Tommy John surgery late last month and is out for the rest of this season.
Having three starting pitchers down has forced the Tigers to put their faith in some younger players, such as Reese Olson, who has a 3.96 ERA and 1.009 WHIP in 38⅔ innings over nine appearances and six starts since being called up on June 2. Olson got the start in Friday’s series opener at Comerica Park.
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The team announced Friday that both Turnbull and Vest threw bullpen sessions Friday and Mize is scheduled to throw one Saturday.
Turnbull, who had a 7.26 ERA with 15 walks and 24 strikeouts over 31 innings in seven starts before being demoted to Triple-A Toledo, has yet to begin a minor league rehab stint. Vest, who has a 2.73 ERA in 29⅔ innings out of the bullpen, will likely need some work in the minors before a return, too.
McGonigle signs with Tigers
Kevin McGonigle took a giant leap in his professional baseball career by officially signing with the Tigers on Friday. The high school infielder out of Pennsylvania was the 37th pick in the 2023 MLB draft, but it was unclear if he would sign an immediate professional contract due to his commitment to playing college baseball at Auburn.
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Understandably, the 18-year-old took some time to mull over the decision, but decided to forego college and turn pro. According to MLB.com, his pick value is $2,309,500 and his signing bonus is $2,850,00.
He finished his senior season at Monsignor Bonner High School with a .474 batting average, four home runs and 16 RBI, earning him the title of Pennsylvania Gatorade baseball player of the year for the 2022-23 season.
The Tigers now have their entire 2023 draft class under contract.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers hitters seem to like automated strike zone in minors