Rebuilt approach benefits Clevlen
Outfielder gets call as Thomas goes on disabled list
DETROIT -- Tigers prospect Brent Clevlen went into the season a consistent bat away from another shot at the big leagues. A couple months later, he's getting his chance.
When outfielder Clete Thomas' sprained right ankle turned out to be severe enough to land him on the disabled list Friday, Clevlen was the recommendation of player development officials to get the callup. When the Indians set up their rotation to throw three consecutive left-handed starters at the Tigers from Saturday through Monday, Clevlen fell into a position to get some at-bats.
"He's certainly a guy that deserves a shot," manager Jim Leyland said.
The way Clevlen was hitting at Triple-A Toledo warranted it.
Clevlen has been on Leyland's radar for the last couple years, but far more for his glove than his bat. Clevlen came up as a defensive replacement for the playoff run when rosters expanded last September, but he had just 10 at-bats, scratching out a single and striking out seven times.
He went into the winter as an offensive project, and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon worked with him in Spring Training to cut down on his long swing. So far, those changes have stuck.
"In Spring Training, I lowered my hands," Clevlen said. "I kept doing that from the start of the season."
The improvement is all over the stats line, but it's arguably best seen in the strikeout totals. He fanned 113 times in 90 games at Toledo last year, compared with just 71 hits. So far this year, he has more hits (69) than strikeouts (64), and he's on pace for far fewer strikeouts by the time the season's up.
Obviously, it's more than a quick bat. His .324 batting average is more than 100 points up from last year, while his OPS of 1.037 ranked among the International League leaders.
"He's been tremendous," Leyland said. "He's really made a lot of adjustments offensively, adjusted to hitting the breaking ball much better. He was on a tear down there."
Just as important, he stuck with the adjustments this year as he grew more comfortable with Triple-A pitching, seeing some of the same arms from last season.
"I had an approach to start the season and I didn't change it," he said. "In the past, I got out of what I wanted to do and couldn't get back to where I wanted to be."
This, obviously, is where he wants to be. How long he'll be up remains to be seen, but the way the Tigers offense is going, there could be an opportunity for him. He has to hit, and he'll get his chance.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.