'Very poised' Casey Mize pushing the issue for spot on Tigers' roster
Detroit — It wasn’t a live game or even an intra-squad scrimmage, but every time manager Ron Gardenhire gets to see Casey Mize pitch, he seems to come away more impressed each time.
On Tuesday, Mize pitched a live batting practice session at Comerica Park, taking a group of hitters that included Derek Hill, Riley Greene, Travis Demeritte and Spencer Torkelson. Leaning on his fastball, Mize had more K’s than the Kardashians.
Mize, 23, is one of the Tigers’ top pitching prospects, and although he was slated to spend this season in Triple-A Toledo before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the plans could change. Gardenhire likes what he’s seen so far in spring training and in Summer Camp — and the temptation to have Mize be with the Tigers when the 30-man roster is finalized in the coming days is there.
“Yeah. I’d like to have him (on the roster) — right now,” Gardenhire said. “We know the protocol and what we're trying to do here, step by step. I just think he’s very poised. He knows what he needs to do and wants to do and it’s fun watching him pitch.
“He’s in control and he has a great plan on what he needs to do to be successful. He’s moving really quick and for me, it can’t be quick enough. I like him a lot.”
There’s some more seasoning that Mize could use before he makes the big jump to the majors, but the initial signs have been encouraging, to say the least. The prudent thing to do is to allow Mize to continue to develop with the 30-man taxi squad that will continue training in Toledo after the season begins on July 24 in Cincinnati.
The Tigers could have a spot in the rotation, because of the injury uncertainty with Daniel Norris, who tested positive for COVID-19, and whether Michael Fulmer could be ready to return to the rotation as tries to complete his return from Tommy John surgery.
There are question marks, but there are far worse options than having Mize as a backup plan if everything doesn’t go like they want.
The Tigers look to have the front end of their rotation in place, with Matthew Boyd set to start Wednesday’s intra-squad game.
The schedule for the rest of the week looks to be some trials in getting used to the new sightlines and environment with no fans at Comerica Park for the start of the 60-game regular season.
They’ll play night games on Wednesday and Thursday and a 1 p.m. game on Friday, with some very specific goals in mind.
“We’re concerned a little bit about the shining seats with nobody in them and some of the glow,” Gardenhire said. “We want to see what it looks like and we can do that at 1 and see what the players see and make adjustments before the season starts.”
Those preparations include putting tape on the backs of some seats to help reduce the glare, which has bothered some of the infielders and outfielders. The intra-squad games will give them more opportunity to figure out the quirks and make adjustments.
“It’s just really shiny if you’re taking a throw from first base to second base. We saw a lot of glow. If you’re an outfielder and go down the right-field corner, those seats are really bright and you throw to second base, it’s really hard to follow the ball.
“We’re ad-libbing a little bit here and figuring out what works. (Director of baseball operations) Sam (Menzin) has been really good at coming up with some solutions for it. We’re talking about it and that 1 o'clock game, the sun should be about right and we’ll see.”
Outfielder Travis Demeritte returned to the field on Tuesday, taking some live batting practice and doing some work on baserunning to test out his injured groin. Gardenhire said Demeritte will be available for Wednesday’s intra-squad game after a couple of days off.
“His groin feels good; he did everything,” Gardenhire said. “(His groin) was just a little tight and we gave him a couple of days to regroup and he feels good.”
The Tigers will have five nationally televised games, all on Fox Sports 1:
►Aug. 1 vs. Reds, 6:10
►Aug. 8 at Pirates, 4:05
►Aug. 24 vs. Cubs, 7:10
►Sept. 12 at White Sox, 7:10
►Sept. 24 at Royals, 8:05