Detroit Tigers call up 2014 first-round pick Derek Hill for MLB debut

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers are bringing outfielder Derek Hill to the big leagues, in an effort to combat center fielder JaCoby Jones' season-ended injury.

The Tigers announced Wednesday that Hill has been recalled from the alternate training site at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, where he has been with the reserve squad since summer camp broke at the end of July. He was the No. 23 overall pick in 2014 from Elk Grove High School in California.

[ Derek Hill has highlight-reel catch. Now he must show he can really hit ]

"It feels amazing being able to share with my family and everybody," Hill said Wednesday. "Been a long time coming. Sorry I made you all wait a little bit longer than expected."

The 24-year-old joins Victor Reyes, Jorge Bonifacio, Christin Stewart and Travis Demeritte in the outfield. Infielder Willi Castro is expected to join them in a utility role soon. Jones left Tuesday's 12-1 win against the Milwaukee Brewers in the eighth inning after being hit in the left hand by a fastball, resulting in a fracture to end his season.

The Tigers are 17-16 overall with 27 games left in the shortened season, just a half-game back of the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL's final playoff spot entering Wednesday. The organization traded right fielder Cameron Maybin at Monday's trade deadline for an infield prospect.

"It's always exciting, trying to make that playoff push," Hill said. "I've been a part of a lot of teams down in the minor leagues that have made that playoff push and got into the playoffs. Obviously, it's not the same thing as the big leagues, but it's always exciting. I mean, this is what we live for."

Detroit Tigers center fielder Derek Hill heads for third base during intrasquad action Thursday, July 16, 2020 at Comerica Park in Detroit.

[ How the Tigers plan to adjust as JaCoby Jones' season ends ]

In 120 games for Double-A Erie last season, Hill slashed .243/.311/.394 with 19 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs and 45 RBIs. He had 147 strikeouts and 38 walks. He hit .239 with four homers and 33 RBIs in 106 games for High-A Lakeland in 2019.

His highlight play this July came on a bare-handed catch in deep center field but it's an afterthought nowadays.

"I don't really think about that very much," Hill said. "I'm always in the mindset of what have you done for me lately. Obviously, I've been down in Toledo, so I haven't been able to do much. Hopefully, I can come up here and do my part, hopefully, help the team win a couple of games and keep it rolling."

Through 477 games across six minor-league seasons, Hill has a .243 batting average, 23 homers and 169 RBIs. He has played 323 games in center field, 91 in right and 29 more in left.

"We faced a lot of the pitching in spring training or whatnot, so I kind of got a little bit of an idea of how they're going to try to pitch to me," Hill said. "I'll definitely get with the hitting coaches, put together a good plan and go from there."

Regarding fellow outfield prospect Daz Cameron, manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday he needs more time to develop at the alternate training site: "He's a little behind everybody right now, just because of what he went through (undisclosed injury). This is who they recommended, and this is who we're bringing up."

Alcantara joins taxi-squad

While Hill gets a chance on the 28-man roster, the Tigers have brought up shortstop Sergio Alcantara to the taxi squad in Milwaukee. It's unclear if he will remain with the team for the five-game road series with the Minnesota Twins through Monday.

"Bring them both up here," manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday. "It's good for them. Get a chance to take a look at them and get away from the same thing over and over and actually seeing some baseball. It's good for them both."

Infielder Sergio Alcantara practices during Detroit Tigers spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

In 102 games for Double-A Erie last season, Alcantara hit .247 with 10 doubles, two homers and 27 RBIs. He played 73 games at shortstop and 29 more at second base. In his four-year minor league career, the 24-year-old only has three starts at third base. 

Coffee talk

Left-handed pitchers Daniel Norris and Matthew Boyd got coffee together in Milwaukee on Wednesday morning, and they couldn't stop talking about the possibility of making the playoffs.

"That's all we talked about," Norris said Wednesday. "I don't think that's really a hope thing. We just gotta keep doing our thing to get there. As far as turning it around, I think it was just a matter of time. We all knew we were coming along in the past several years."

Both players were on the Tigers' 2016 team, a group that finished 86-75 and second in the AL Central. They missed the playoffs on the final day of the season. 

Detroit Tigers' Daniel Norris pitches during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, in Milwaukee.

Boyd started Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader and allowed one earned run in six innings his last time out, registering six strikeouts without any walks. It dropped his ERA to 7.37.

[ How Matthew Boyd responded when his team needed him most ]

With six of his seven appearances (15⅔ innings) coming out of the bullpen this season, Norris has a 1.72 ERA, 0.830 WHIP and 17 strikeouts to one walk.

"I love starting and that's ultimately what I want to do," Norris said. "But with this season, look at us? We're right in the heart of the playoffs, so whatever I can do to bridge the gap or whatever that means. I'm down for whatever."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content