Stumpf’s decision to stick with Tigers has its payoff

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Daniel Stumpf of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the seventh inning Saturday.

Detroit — At this time last year, Daniel Stumpf was serving an 80-game suspension after violating Major League Baseball’s policy against using performance-enhancing drugs.

He had made the Phillies opening day roster as a Rule 5 draft pick but, suspended and back home in Texas, playing in the big leagues again must’ve seemed like a long shot, especially after the Phillies returned him to his original organization, Kansas City, last July.

The long shot came in. The Tigers recalled the left-hander from Triple-A Toledo Friday night to replace Matthew Boyd, who was sent back down to work through his mechanical issues.

“I was not expecting it,” Stumpf said. “I was just trying to throw the ball down there and get outs. Just trying to make my way back up here.”

The Tigers took a chance on Stumpf this winter, taking him in the Rule 5 draft after he’d been left unprotected by the Royals.

He pitched well at times this spring, but did not make the Tigers’ 25-man roster.

Daniel Stumpf

As a second-time Rule 5 pick, Stumpf had the option to elect free agency rather than be returned to Kansas City. Instead, he opted to re-sign with the Tigers and begin the season at Triple-A Toledo.

“I decided to come back to the Tigers,” he said. “I felt my opportunity was really good here. I was blessed that they wanted me back. I tried to throw well down there and hoped that eventually I would make my way up here.”

He was throwing well, and often, for the Mud Hens. He was leading the International League with 24 games pitched.

{itching usually in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings, he was 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA, allowing eight runs in 21⅓ innings. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio was good — 26-5 — and he was dominating left-handed hitters (35 at-bats, .200, 16 strikeouts, one walk).

“It’s just being able to get more reps,” Stumpf said of his success. “I haven’t had a huge innings load, but I was getting out there consistently. That helps. Me personally, throwing more makes me sharper.”

He features a hard, sinking fastball (91-93 mph) with a change-up and slider. When he’s right, he gets a lot of groundballs.

“I am just going to try and be myself and throw the ball like I can,” he said. “I am not going to try and change anything with that. It’s definitely been a journey. I mean, this was my first year in Triple-A. Great guys, great coaches — I really enjoyed the experience.

“But, the main goal was to try and get back here.”

Manager Brad Ausmus said Stumpf would be a short reliever, though not strictly a situational lefty. He takes over the role that lefty Kyle Ryan had at the beginning of the season. Ausmus was asked for a progress report on Ryan.

“He had a decent outing last night (in Scranton),” Ausmus said. “But there’s still been some inconsistency (with his command and control). Overall improved, but still inconsistent.”

Twitter @cmccosky