Arm-weary Tigers take fliers on a pair of journeyman relievers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Victor Alcantara

Baltimore – The Tigers over the weekend signed two journeymen relievers, both in their 30s, both recently designated for assignment. Austin Adams, 32, had allowed five runs (two home runs) in 2.2 innings with the Twins. He joined the club here in Baltimore Monday.

The other, 36-year-old Carlos Torres, a nine-year veteran, was pitching for the Padres’ Triple-A team in El Paso. He was assigned to Triple-A Toledo.

Desperate times. Desperate measures.

“We don’t have a choice,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game. “We don’t have enough (bullpen help) in the minor leagues that can come up and do anything right now. They’re not ready for this. They don’t throw it over.”

This is all part of the trickle-down from the Tigers having four members of their original starting rotation on the injured list. Michael Fulmer and Matt Moore are lost for the season. That moved Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris into the rotation.

Subsequently, veterans Jordan Zimmermann and Tyson Ross have gone in the IL. On top of that, two of the team’s top starters at Triple-A Toledo, Kyle Funkhouser and Beau Burrows, also spent time on the injured list.

It’s forced a carousel effect with the rotation and bullpen, which also suffered it's own setback when Drew VerHagen scuffled. He was DFA'd but ultimately signed back to Toledo.

“It’s tough,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve killed the Triple-A team and we even went into Double-A bringing people in here – and we’re still trying to finagle our way through this. It is what it is. We’re signing older guys.

“All I know is Al (Avila, general manager) and his whole staff are out there trying to find people to help us get through it. They know what we’re going through here.”

The same day the Tigers signed Adams and Torres, the Athletics put former Tiger Fernando Rodney on waivers. 

The Tigers are among the leaders in the American League in bullpen usage. Victor Alcantara is tied for second in appearances (27) and Buck Farmer (25) is right behind him.

“We have guys who are pretty sore and still taking the ball,” Gardenhire said. “Buck and Victor have got into a lot of ballgames. They’ve pitched a lot. But we were able to rest a few guys yesterday. I think we’re OK.”

Adams looking for a shot

It was just a few years ago that Adams was coming out of the Cleveland Indians bullpen firing mid-to-upper 90s fastballs at Central Division hitters.

But in 2017, something went wrong, physically, and he ended up having to pitch in an Independent League to prove he was healthy.

“It’s been a crazy past few years, for sure,” Adams said. “I had an injury that went undisclosed. They couldn’t figure out what happened.”

Adams still doesn’t know what it was. He had shoulder surgery in 2012, but what he was feeling had nothing to do with the shoulder. All he knows is, he was a minor-league free agent in the winter of 2017 and nobody would take a flier on him.

“Teams were worried about my health,” he said. “I had to play Indy ball to make sure I was healthy.”

He did that and earned a minor-league contract with the Twins. Eventually it led to the ill-fated promotion back to the big leagues.

“I’ve been throwing the ball well for the most part,” he said. “But then I’d go six days without throwing again. It’s been shaky, shaky work. I’m just looking forward to making the best of it.”

Adams still throws in the mid-90s, but without getting consistent work, his control has been suspect. He walked three in two-thirds of an inning in his last outing with the Twins. 

“Adams’ history isn’t exactly as a strike-thrower,” Gardenhire said. “But he still throws 95-96 mph. We’re hoping he can get it over. We hope we got a guy who knows how to do it a little bit.”

Jordy Mercer

Mercer update 

Jordy Mercer played five innings at shortstop, got a hit and scored a run at Triple-A Toledo Sunday. Gardenhire said he expects Mercer’s rehab assignment to continue through the week.

“I expect him to be back when we get home (Monday), or possibly he can join us in Atlanta this weekend,” he said. “The goal is to get him through nine innings. If he can play defense for nine full innings with no issues with the leg (quad strain), that’s what we’re looking for.”

Ronny Rodriguez, Niko Goodrum and Gordon Beckham have filled in for Mercer, who has played just 19 games. This is his second stint on the injured list with the same quad strain. And the longer he’s been out, the more his absence has been felt defensively.

“We talked this offseason about finding a shortstop that calmed everything down out there,” Gardenhire said. “We don’t have the guy here now that calms it down. Ronny is OK. Niko is OK. But it’s not the same.

“Jordy is always right where he’s supposed to be and he makes all the routine plays. We are a better defensive team when Jordy is back out there.”

Carlos Torres

Around the horn 

Torres, who had allowed seven runs in 25 innings at El Paso, last pitched in the big leagues with Washington in 2018. From 2013 through 2017, he was a stalwart in the Mets’ and Brewers’ bullpens, logging 396 innings and posting a 3.52 ERA.

… The Tigers went 50 games deep into the season without a successful sacrifice bunt – maybe the first Gardenhire-coached team to accomplish that feat. “We’ve tried as much as I would with other teams,” he said. “Just not getting them down. It’s not good when they are calling for a fair catch on bunts.”

… Zimmermann, recovering from a UCL sprain, is scheduled to throw a simulated game Friday in Atlanta. Ross (ulnar nerve neuritis) has begun throwing lightly off flat ground.

... Gardenhire said the plan for Wednesday was to start lefty Ryan Carpenter on short rest. Carpenter threw 56 pitches in a solid five-inning outing Saturday against the Mets. 

Tigers at Orioles

First pitch: 7:05 p.m., Tuesday

TV/Radio: FSD,/97.1 FM

Scouting report:

RHP Dylan Bundy (2-5, 4.67), Orioles: He’s completed six full innings twice in his 10 starts and his hard-hit rate of 31.5 percent is unfitting of a pitcher with his arsenal. He’s been better this month, though. In four May starts, opponents are hitting .176 and he’s allowed six earned runs in 23.2 innings.

LHP Matthew Boyd (4-4, 3.11), Tigers: He’s building a strong case for an All-Star berth. Baseball Reference computes his WAR at 2.5, which is third in the American League (FanGraphs has him first with a 2.2 WAR). He is fourth in strikeouts (80), third in WHIP (1.01) and 10th in opponents average (.211).

Twitter @cmccosky