Christin Stewart stood alone in left field in the fourth inning Sunday with a cool breeze running through his Detroit Tigers jersey. He was calm.
Suddenly, he heard the crack of the bat. Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz’s potential double was rocketing toward the wall. Stewart remained calm.
The former first-round pick quickly tracked the ball, leaped in the air and caught the ball as it streaked across his body. He finished the play by sticking the landing, to boot.
It was one of the few highlights for Detroit during the Tigers’ 12-2 loss to the Twins.
“I told myself, ‘I’m gonna catch this ball’,” Stewart said after the game.
That display of athleticism wasn’t the reason why the Tigers took Stewart with the 34th overall pick in the 2015 draft. They wanted his bat, and he’s delivered with that, too. After hitting a game-winning home run on Opening Day in Toronto, Stewart has batted .252 with five homers this season.
Stewart wasn’t expected to produce much as a defender when he made the jump to the big leagues. Scouts labeled his speed as average, and his glove below that. He’s determined to change that.
“He’ll get better as he goes along,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Reading balls off the bat, he works at it, he’s trying, you’re gonna have some plays where they’re gonna beat him up a little bit, but for the most part, he’s gotten a lot better.”
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And Stewart showed signs of that Sunday. His catch in the fourth wasn’t the only time he came up big for the Tigers, with another big catch — this one behind his back — in the eighth..
Unfortunately for the Tigers, they had to use Stewart got a lot of work in the outfield on Sunday, as the Twins repeatedly put the ball in play in the outfield.
If Stewart had it his way, he wouldn’t have to do much work in left. But he does enjoy when he can show off his glove.
“Making a great catch can deflate the hitter,” he said. “It’s a great feeling when you can make plays like that.”
With how he’s improving, Stewart could make plays like Sunday’s for years to come.
Stewart credits his practice at Comerica Park for his improvement.
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“Here at Comerica we got a big park, so there’s a lot of steps you can’t get away with at a smaller park,” he said. “Getting to know the park, getting more reps, that’s the biggest thing.”
Stewart’s time at Comerica will get a brief interruption, though, as Sunday’s game ended a six-game homestand. After an off day on Monday, the Tigers head to Kansas City for two games against the Royals, then to Omaha, Nebraska, for another game against the Royals (in the home stadium of the NCAA’s College World Series).
The Royals were the last team the Tigers beat in a series, back on May 3-5.
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Published at Mon, 10 Jun 2019 10:01:03 +0000