Detroit Tigers’ 2019 HR leader Brandon Dixon returns with no pressure
Brandon Dixon expected to be a member of the Detroit Tigers’ traveling taxi squad when he arrived at Target Field on Tuesday for a two-game series with the Minnesota Twins.
As he walked into the clubhouse, general manager Al Avila pulled him into interim manager Lloyd McClendon’s office for a conversation. He told Dixon that he was promoted to the active roster and starting in left field.
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“A nice little surprise,” Dixon said Tuesday.
He led the Tigers in 2019 with 15 home runs. He had a .248 batting average across 117 games. But when summer camp broke near the end of July, Dixon was sent to the alternate training site in Toledo.
With only six scheduled games remaining, he is finally back in the majors.
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“It’s tough to put yourself in a position to prove something within six games,” Dixon said. “So I’m not really gonna put pressure on myself or anything like that. I’m going to go about my business like it’s another day. I’ve prepared myself to play, and I’m going to go out and do what I can.”
In an unexpected way, spending time with the reserve squad in Toledo helped him. His at-bats weren’t viewed by anyone outside of the organization, so he got back to the basics.
He turned what could’ve been considered a lost season into an opportunity for growth.
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Dixon focused on swinging at pitches he could drive, rather than chasing outside of the strike zone. He chased at 33.8% of pitches outside the zone last season and made contact 42.4% of the time – worse than league average in both categories.
“We got to get to work and do different things,” Dixon said. “For me, I made the most out of it every day. I think that’s part of why I’m here for this last week.”
The 28-year-old also took on the role of a mentor to newcomers to professional baseball, including 2020 No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson. Because Dixon is versatile on defense, he shared his expertise with infielders and outfielders alike.
In the minors, Dixon has played second base (264 games), third base (161), first base (47), center field (37), left field (39) and right field (19). He took the field at all of those positions in 117 games for the Tigers in 2019, including twice as a pitcher.
[ Brandon Dixon has a strategy when pitching: Soft toss ]
More important than his advice to newcomers, Dixon showed some pop at the alternative training site in Toledo, which officially shut down Sunday.
Because of his continued power display, the Tigers – nearing playoff elimination – decided to give him a chance.
“He’s played extremely well down there,” McClendon said. “We need more offense, and he certainly fits the build.”
Once considered a matter of time before second baseman Jonathan Schoop returned, the Tigers have decided to shut him down for the remainder of the season with a right wrist sprain.
“He didn’t progress the way he thought he was going to,” McClendon said. “Certainly not going to be ready in the next week or so. We had no choice.”
To make room for Dixon on the 40-man roster, Schoop was transferred from the 10-day to 45-day injured. Dixon’s spot on the 28-man active roster was created when the team demoted rookie Sergio Alcantara to Toledo on Sunday.
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On a one-year contract, Schoop finished his season slashing .278/.324/.475 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in 44 games. He hit .303 in August before a 9-for-43 slump (.209) in September.
“He’s very talented,” McClendon said. “His numbers show that. This guy was a force when he was in our lineup hitting second and turning that lineup over. It’s a tough loss for us. He led by example. He wasn’t very vocal, but he went out and did his job to the best of his ability.”
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