PHOENIX–Like just about everyone else in Detroit this season, Brent Clevlen touched a little bit of gold during his time with the Tigers.
Clevlen’s first few days in the major leagues gave him a perfect lead-in to his career highlight reel.
In his first start July 30, on the first ball hit to him, Clevlen threw out Minnesota’s Luis Castillo at the plate as Castillo tagged on a fly ball and tried to score in the last of the first inning.
Facing Johan Santana leading off the third inning in his first major league at-bat, Clevlen doubled down the left field line on a changeup, later scoring on a single. He drew a walk off Santana in his third plate appearance.
With that as prologue, Cleven hit two bases-empty home runs to center field at Tropicana Field and scored three times in his second start Aug. 1 in Tampa Bay.
“It seemed liked a dream at first,” Clevlen said of his two-homer day. “I didn’t think the first one had a chance. I hit in on a line and it just made it out. As I was rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting. When I got in the dugout, the guys were pretty happy. They were all up on the front steps, waiting for me.”
Clevlen, the Tigers’ second-round pick in 2002, finished .282/.317/.641 with three home runs in 39 at-bats with the Tigers, spending eight weeks with them during the tightest part of the NL Central race. He also hit .333 against lefthanders during his stay.
“It was a great experience,” said Clevlen, who is finishing his season with Phoenix of the Arizona Fall League.
“The first time being called up, and especially being with a team that was winning and was in a pennant race, fighting for a playoff spot. It was fun.”
Clevlen, who will turn 23 this month, has just started to grow into his power after being selected out of Cedar Park (Texas) Westwood High.
He had his best pro season in his second year at high Class A Lakeland in 2005, hitting .302/.387/.484 with 28 doubles and 14 stolen bases. He was struggling, hitting .230/.313/.357 with 17 doubles at Double-A Erie before his promotion, although he had made a good spring impression by hitting .323 with three bombs in 14 major league spring training games. He admitted he was surprised by the move, triggered when Craig Monroe went down with an injury.
“Definitely. I was struggling at little bit in Double-A. I wasn’t performing as I would have liked to, especially after the year before and the spring training I had. It was very unexpected,” said Clevlen, given the news by Erie manager Duffy Dyer at 9 a.m. on July 30.
He flew out of Bowie, Md., at noon and landed in Minneapolis just in time for the Tigers’ game that night. Clevlen started against Santana the next day. Manager Jim Leyland made it short and sweet.
“He came over and asked if I was ready to play,” Clevlen said. “He said ‘Well, all right. Let’s go see if you can see the fly balls in the Metrodome. If you can, you are starting.’ “
For Clevlen, who is in Arizona to work on getting his load earlier to start his hands quicker in his approach at the plate, everything seemed to work out in his brief major league debut. He’ll come into spring training competing for a big league outfield spot.
• Peoria Javelinas right fielder Michael Wilson (Mariners) hit grand slams Friday and Saturday over the first weekend of the season. Wilson’s Friday slam was part of a six-RBI day in a 9-8 victory over the Peoria Saguaros, when he also drove in runs on a sacrifice fly and a bases loaded walk. His slam the next day came in a 15-7 victory over Scottsdale. Wilson, a switch-hitter who was a second-round pick in 2001, hit both his home runs lefthanded. He was leading the league with 11 RBIs on five hits.
• Scottsdale utilityman Mark Reynolds (Diamondbacks) had six hits in his first 12 at-bats, including two homers, while driving in six. Reynolds, a 16th round pick in 2004, had 31 homers in 387 at-bats between high Class A Lancaster and Double-A Tennessee and also was a member of the U.S. team the qualified for the 2008 Olympics.