TOLEDO, Ohio — How long will it take Eugenio Suarez to reach Detroit and get a shot at being the Tigers’ starting shortstop?
If he keeps hitting like he has during his first week at Triple-A Toledo, it might not be long at all.
Proving he can hit at the highest minor-league level is the final test for the slick-fielding Suarez, who’s considered the top defensive shortstop in the organization. He’s batting .417 after going 3 for 4 with a homer that traveled well over 400 feet in Tuesday night’s win over the Durham Bulls.
"Every day, I play hungry," said Suarez, who batted third in the order Tuesday. "I want quick to play in the big leagues. I don’t want to play here for long. Every day, I am hungry."
He also made a spectacular play in the sixth inning, going deep into the hole to field the ball and then firing to first to get Wilson Betemit. Suarez threw all the way across the diamond on a line without bothering to land and set his feet.
"The kid’s been highly thought of, and a game like tonight shows you why," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said.
Suarez’s homer to left cleared Fifth Third Field and landed on Monroe Street. Suarez, who was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, credited offseason weight lifting with his increased power.
Tigers shortstops Andrew Romine (.200) and Danny Worth (.189) are providing little offensively, and Romine has struggled some in the field recently. So calling up Suarez is extremely tempting.
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski and former manager Jim Leyland, now a talent evaluator, watched Tuesday’s game together. They came to scout all of the Mud Hens and had a lengthy pregame discussion with Parrish. Suarez, no doubt, was a topic of conversation.
"He’s done very well this year," Dombrowski said of Suarez. "But he’s only been here a short while. We thought he was ready to do something. He played well at Double-A, and we were ready to move him up."
Suarez batted .284 with a hefty .503 slugging percentage in 155 at-bats with Erie. He had nine doubles, one triple and six homers with 26 RBIs before leaving the SeaWolves.
"This gives me an opportunity," said Suarez, 22. "It’s very good for me. I think of me playing in the big leagues. I don’t know when, but this is good for my career."
Suarez got a close look during spring training after Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias was ruled out for at least half of this season with fractured shins. But it was determined Suarez wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to the majors at that time.
Now he’s giving Detroit every reason to believe he’s worth a shot in the near future.
Suarez works dutifully before games with Tigers minor-league infield coordinator Kevin Bradshaw to maintain defensive consistency.
Getting instruction from Tigers infield coach Omar Vizquel during spring training was a thrill for Suarez, who hails from Venezuela along with Vizquel.
"(Omar) knows he is my special player, my favorite player," Suarez said with a smile. "He had me working every day on my defense, on making the routine plays.
"He told me, ‘You’ve got good defense, good hands. Keep working every day … you’ve got a chance to play in the big leagues.’"
Making highlight-reel plays has never been the problem for Suarez, but the routine plays have been.
"It’s about not losing the concentration," said Parrish , who added that the key to Suarez’s power is his quick, short stroke and ability to meet the ball with authority.
"I throw to him," Parrish said. "And he has this finish where it’s all of a sudden — pow! It helps to be strong, but that is the late snap that good hitters have and other hitters want. Bat speed — I don’t think you can teach it."
Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler also saw something special during spring training.
Said Suarez: "(Kinsler) said, ‘You’ve got good, quick hands. You’ve got a chance to play in the big leagues. You’ve got a chance to play as a combination with me in the big leagues.’"
A notice was posted in the Mud Hens clubhouse Tuesday that the team photo will be taken Sunday. With the way Suarez is playing, though, it’s even money that he won’t be around for it.
The kid is obsessed with making his dream come true as soon as possible.
HANRAHAN THROWING IN LAKELAND
Joel Hanrahan, the former All-Star closer who had Tommy John surgery last May, is throwing bullpen sessions in Lakeland, Fla.
Dombrowski said that will be the likely spot for the beginning of Hanrahan’s rehabilitation assignment, but he doesn’t appear close to that. Hanrahan has yet to face batters.
"We’re not rushing him, but he’s making progress," Dombrowski said. "It’s not like he’s a day away from going into a game."
Hanrahan will give the Tigers another proven, veteran reliever to go with Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan.