Detroit Tigers’ Nick Matton continues career struggles against fastballs, hitting .163

CLEVELAND – Acting as a cleanup hitter, Nick Matton got 13 non-fastballs in three plate appearances against Cleveland Guardians right-hander Shane Bieber. He didn’t get a single fastball, and all 13 pitches were in the bottom of the strike zone or below the strike zone.

Matton struck out three times in Tuesday’s 2-0 loss.

Although the Detroit Tigers put right-hander Peyton Battenfield on the mound for the fifth start of his MLB career, left-handed hitter Matton did not start for Wednesday’s series finale at Progressive Field.

“There’s some approach to it, some mechanics,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said before Wednesday’s game. “I know he’s trying to prove to everybody that he can handle all the pitches, and sometimes by doing that, you swing at a lot of them. That’s how it was last night.”

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Matton, who the Tigers acquired in an offseason trade from the Philadelphia Phillies, has always thrived against righties and fastballs, but has always struggled against lefties and fastballs. Non-righty fastballs, as Bieber demonstrated, trouble him, too.

Their attitude must change.

“When you look at their at-bats, teams are clearly announcing two things,” Hinch said. “One, he’s not afraid to throw early and often secondary pitches. The second part, he’s really advanced aggressively. Sometimes, I think the cat-and-mouse game needs to be adjusted. You don’t have to swing at every secondary pitch. You don’t have to be over-aggressive unless he gets it down into the strike zone and he will demonstrate it.”

Matton is hitting .163 with four home runs, 13 walks and 35 strikeouts in 34 games this season. Opponents threw him 46.9% of fastballs (which do more damage at the top of the strike zone), 35.9% of breaking balls and 17.1% of offspeed pitches.

Matton has a .224 batting average with four homers against fastballs, a .118 batting average against breaking balls (ie sliders, curveballs) and no hits against offspeed pitches (ie changeups).

He similarly struggled with the Phillies last season.

“When you’re at this level, and teams are doing the same thing to you over and over again, I think it’s human nature to be over-aggressive to counter that and swing more,” Hinch said. “It’s just that little adjustments are necessary. … He can find his way, but when it piles up over and over like this, the results are pretty disappointing.”

Hinch didn’t bench Matton for Wednesday’s game, but “reset” him in hopes of a better process, leading to better results, when the Tigers return to Comerica Park for a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.

Matton is expected to return to the starting lineup on Saturday.

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Riley Green, Spencer Torkelson raking in May

The Tigers have a 6-2 record in May.

It’s no coincidence center fielder Riley Green and first baseman Spencer Torkelson have been rocking this month. He’s not expected to carry the offense, but he’s a key contributor with All-Star potential.

“He’s shouldering a lot of responsibility,” Hinch said. “They’re continuing to evolve and grow. They’re not naive to the fact that they’re a really big part of our present and our future, and they have a lot to give.”

Green, in 2019 No. 5 overall pick, is hitting .400 with a 1.055 on-base-plus slugging percentage in eight games with three doubles, one home run, seven RBIs, three walks and eight strikeouts. The 22-year-old is hitting .270 with three homers in 35 games this season.

Torkelson, in 2020 No. 1 overall pick, is hitting .344 with four doubles, one homer, five RBIs, one walk and six strikeouts, posting a .945 OPS in eight games. The 23-year-old is hitting .240 with three homers in 34 games this season.

“We’ve been patient with both guys,” Hinch said. “Our faith will never waver. Our faith in their work will never waver. The results are starting to show little by little. But they don’t have to carry the full burden of the offense for us. They’re going to be a big part of it. But the calmness around each other and around the responsibility is pretty remarkable.”

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Where is Spencer Turnbull?

Right-hander Spencer Turnbull did not report to Triple-A Toledo.

Hinch isn’t sure when he’ll join the Mud Hens.

“I don’t know,” Hinch said. “We’ll figure it out I think in the next couple of days. We have a great plan for him, but I’m not sure when he’ll report back.”

Turnbull, 30, posted a 7.26 ERA with 15 walks and 24 strikeouts in 31 innings over seven starts. The Tigers optioned him to Toledo on Sunday after his start against the St. Louis Cardinals. (Right-hander Alex Faedo took his place in the starting rotation.)

Turnbull missed the entire 2022 season while rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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