Detroit — Adios, June. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
With a flip of a calendar page, the Tigers flush one of the most dreadful months of this millennium. You have to go back to the 119-loss 2003 season to find a worst winning percentage than the .200 they posted in June (5-20).
There were two sub-.200 months in 2003 — 3-20 and 5-22. But if you poke around the rubble of this past month, you'll find some useful debris.
JaCoby Jones has reclaimed his status as one of the foundation pieces of this rebuild. Finally one of the swing changes he tried worked. He hit .291, with a .351 on-base average, a .547 slugging percentage and an .898 OPS in June.
He hit four home runs out and, hitting at the top of the batting order, he got on base 33 times and scored 14 runs.
Brandon Dixon, who hit six of his team-high 11 home runs; Nick Castellanos, who has reached base in a career-best 24 straight games and hit .297; and Harold Castro, getting regular playing time for the first time in his big-league career hit .288 with a .306 on-base average — were also productive in an otherwise unproductive offensive month.
On the pitching side, what more can you say about Shane Greene? The Tigers’ All-Star only made seven appearances in June, all scoreless. In fact, he hasn’t given up an earned run since May 3. In his last 16 games, opponents are hitting .153. They were 4 for 25 against him in June.
The big development of the month, though, was the quiet addition of three very powerful arms. Right-handers Jose Cisnero and Austin Adams both possess upper-90s fastballs and wipe-out sliders, and the both are starting to get more consistent work.
The third power-armed pitcher, former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, was signed on Saturday and is tuning up at Triple-A Toledo. Adams’ average fastball is 96 mph. Cisnero’s averages 97 mph. Rosenthal, when he’s right, brings it between 98-100 mph.
“I like power arms,” manager Ron Gardenhire has said on multiple occasions.
Of the three, Adams is in position to take on a larger role this month. He finished June pitching 3.1 scoreless innings in his last four outings.
“The one thing Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) has talked to him about, and to our catchers about, is pitching a little backwards,” Gardenhire said. “Rather than coming in throwing fastballs, spin it early and get them off the fastball.
“Throw the breaking ball for strike one and then go to the fastball. That’s what he’s been doing, and if he continues to do that, he’s a very serviceable pitcher.”
Truth is, Adams has a nasty slider. Hitters are 2 for 15 against it, swinging and missing 41.5 percent of the time. He's just needed some consistent work to knock the rust off it.
“I haven’t really tweaked it or anything, I’ve just gotten better repetition and honed it a little more,” Adams said. “It’s been a go-to, but I’ve been using it more, and more consistently.”
Adams and Cisnero are examples of the ultimate Catch-22 in baseball — you need consistent work to be effective, but you can’t get consistent work unless you are effective.
“Really, it’s just been a matter of being able to repeat everything and stay consistent with my work,” Adams said. “Even when I started the year in the minor leagues with the Twins organization, I wasn’t getting consistent work because they had six guys down there on the 40-man roster.
“It’s been a work in progress. It’s always a work in progress.”
Gardenhire back in May stopped trying to find perfect situations for his relief pitchers. With the offensive struggles, there haven’t been many low-leverage situations to ease guys in with.
“We’re just not able to do that,” he said. “We just have to use pitchers who haven’t thrown too much. (Adams) is a guy working himself into bigger situations, I can tell you that. I think we feel pretty good with him out there.”
If Rosenthal can straighten out his control issues — and he's been hurt by a sporadic workload, too — the Tigers could have an arsenal of five relievers who throw mid- to upper-90s heat: Rosenthal, Adams, Cisnero, Buck Farmer and Joe Jimenez. Six if the Tigers eventually decide to use lefty Gregory Soto out of the bullpen.
Useful debris among the rubble of a brutal month.
On deck: White Sox
► Series: Four-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago
► First pitch: Tuesday and Thursday — 8:10 p.m.; Wednesday doubleheader — 2:10 p.m, 8:10, p.m.
► TV/radio: All games — Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM
► Probables: Tuesday — LHP Matthew Boyd (5-6, 3.72) vs. RHP Reynaldo Lopez (4-7, 6.12); Wednesday — Game 1, LHP Daniel Norris (2-7, 4.62) vs. LHP Dylan Cease (MLB debut); Game 2 — TBA vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (1-0, 3.60); Thursday — LHP Gregory Soto (0-2, 8.44) vs. RHP Ivan Nova (3-7, 5.92).
► Boyd, Tigers: His last start summed up the entire month of June for him — he struck out 11 in seven innings, but also allowed three home runs, in one inning. The Tigers lost all five of Boyd's starts in June, with the lefty posting a 5.90 ERA and .602 opponents’ slugging percentage. He gave up 10 homers, but he also struck out 41 in 29 innings.
► Lopez, White Sox: His numbers probably read like typos to the Tigers — league-high 63 earned runs allowed, 6.12 ERA, 1.6 WHIP. That’s not the guy they faced in April. In back-to-back six-inning starts, he allowed just two earned runs with 22 strikeouts.