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Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 4/13/2006

Shelton shy, but not with bat in hand

DETROIT - Chris Shelton is one of the quietest players in the Detroit Tigers' clubhouse.

But the slugging first baseman has been making plenty of noise with his bat.

Shelton has either been beltin' the ball all over the park, or out of it.

He hit five homers and finished with a .583 average, two doubles, two triples and nine RBIs the first six games of the year en route to winning American League player of the week honors.

Reporters have been wearing out a path to Shelton's locker.

Shelton, right. Shelton, right.
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"Big Red" has been bombarded with one national interview request after another.

Shelton hasn't exactly embraced the spotlight.

He and manager Jim Leyland are anxious for things to get back to normal.

Both may soon get their wish.

Shelton's red-hot bat has cooled off considerably since his torrid start.

He had managed just one hit in his last seven at-bats before belting a one-out, two-run homer yesterday off Chicago's Bobby Jenks in the bottom of the ninth.

Shelton's first homer in four games, and major league-leading sixth overall, still wasn't enough as the Tigers lost their third consecutive game, falling 4-3.

Shelton went 1-for-4 and is now hitting .500. He has collected at least one extra base hit in seven of eight games.

In addition to his blast yesterday, Shelton hit into an inning-ending double play in the second, popped out to first with a runner at third in the fifth and grounded out to short in the seventh.

"Chris is a good hitter and he's going to settle into a groove eventually," Leyland said. "He just needs to get through this onslaught of attention. The next Babe Ruth and stuff like that, that's a lot to handle for anyone.

"I think Chris will be just fine once all of this craziness stops."

Shelton, 25, has always been a good hitter, just not a slugger. His early power surge has been surprising.

"I got off to a very good start, but by no means am I planning on doing what I did the first week of the season on an everyday basis," he said.

Until now, Shelton's so-so defense has kept him from blossoming into an everyday player in the majors.

But he has been steady with his glove and his fielding - he hasn't committed an error yet.

"My defense is every bit as important as my offense, because I don't want to hurt the team," Shelton said.

A 33rd-round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 2001, Shelton was named the Pirates' minor league player of the year in 2003.

Surprisingly, they left Shelton unprotected and he was claimed by Detroit in the Rule 5 draft that December.

The Tigers kept Shelton on their major league roster for the 2004 season - except for an 18-game rehab stint at Triple-A Toledo - but he batted just .196 with one double, one homer and three RBI in 27 games.

Despite being the MVP of the Arizona Fall League after his first season with the Tigers, Shelton began last year with the Mud Hens.

He was recalled by Detroit in late May. In four months as a Tigers starter, he hit .299 with 18 homers and 59 RBI.

Now it looks like the shy, sweet-swinging Shelton might finally be in the big leagues to stay.



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