Entering Saturday’s contest against the Royals, the Tigers ranked last in the majors with just two home runs over their last eight games. Exiting that game, well, they bumped up their total to just three, but that third homer was a doozy: a go-ahead grand slam from rookie left fielder Christin Stewart.
Stewart’s moment arrived in the seventh inning. Still up 4-2, the Royals had already started to let the game get away from them. Nicholas Castellanos singled in a run, Miguel Cabrera hit a liner out to left, and Kansas City’s Wily Peralta finished setting the table with a seven-pitch walk to Jeimer Candelario. Stewart saw four pitches from Peralta before finding a changeup he liked, which was promptly returned to the right field foul pole for his first-ever grand slam:
Per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, it’s been almost ten years since the Tigers have seen a rookie belt a go-ahead grand slam. The last to do it was outfielder Clete Thomas, whose eighth-inning home run put the Tigers up 9-5 over the Angels on June 7, 2009. (It’s been just nine years since a Tigers’ rookie hit any variety of grand slam, which was accomplished by right fielder Brennan Boesch in the summer of 2010.)
Thanks to Stewart’s grand slam, the Tigers extended their winning streak to four straight games with a 7-4 finale against the Royals. They’ll go for the sweep on Sunday with right-hander Tyson Ross on the mound at 1:10 PM EDT.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.