Detroit — The Tigers had planned to have many of their top prospects at Triple-A Toledo this season. Still, fans were eager to see many of the names of the future at Comerica Park, even if it was only for a couple of weeks.
With the expanded 60-man player pool in Summer Camp, they got an early glimpse during live batting practice and the 10 intra-squad games. That was the appetizer — leaving many fans hankering for more of a glimpse during the early part of the regular season.
They’ll have to wait a little longer.
The top pitching prospects, including Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo — the three who looked to be closest to making the main 30-man roster — were assigned Monday to the 30-man taxi squad. That group will work in Toledo but will be available to play during the 60-game season, which begins Friday in Cincinnati.
It’s a conservative and patient approach in keeping the future core of the roster on a steady pace toward reaching the big leagues. Manager Ron Gardenhire said general manager Al Avila and assistant GM David Chad sat with Mize and revealed the plan.
“This organization said a few years ago that this is the way we’re going to do it and we're sticking to it,” Gardenhire said. “(Mize) is going to go down and pitch, and he’ll be ready if we need him — and the kid’s got a lot going on for him.
“He’s a really good pitcher, he’s a class act, and he handled himself very well in the office when we told him he wasn’t going to start with us.”
Avila said that questions about Mize’s service time were not a consideration in keeping him with the taxi squad. Mize had pitched well in Summer Camp, and even with some injuries and question marks in the starting rotation, they decided that it wasn’t the time to promote him — yet.
Among the 19 players assigned to the taxi squad were some of the top prospects among position players, including outfielder Riley Greene and this year’s No. 1 overall pick, third baseman Spencer Torkelson.
“One of the things we saw in Riley Greene from the time we drafted him is physically speaking, he’s already developing into a man — from a young man in high school to the body of a major league player,” Avila said. “The power has been there, and the athleticism and he’s got good running speed. He’s taken a lot of pride in his defense and we’re seeing that total package develop before our eye pretty quickly.”
The Tigers optioned catcher Eric Haase and outfielder Travis Demeritte and reassigned pitchers Franklin Perez, Tim Adleman, Nolan Blackwood, Zack Hess, Alex Lange and Hector Santiago to the alternate training location in Toledo.
Catchers Jake Rogers, Dillon Dingler and Brady Policelli also were reassigned, as were infielders Sergio Alcantara, Isaac Paredes and Frank Schwindel.
Hess and Lange, who were added to the 60-man player pool last week, had impressive debuts in Monday’s intrasquad finale. Hess, a right-hander, entered in the sixth inning and notched two strikeouts in a clean inning, getting Jake Rogers and Jorge Bonifacio. He also induced a ground ball from Torkelson.
Lange also drew some attention from Gardenhire in a quick inning of work. Both showed good velocity on the fastball, though there were some control issues, but with only a few days to work, the early signs were encouraging.
“I saw 95 to 96 mph. It was fun,” Gardenhire said. “They were overthrowing a little bit. We were just hoping that we didn’t get anybody killed because they were pretty amped up but they actually did really well.
“The ball comes out of their hand really good and if you were looking at the scoreboard and saw the velo, it was pretty good. Guys said the ball was jumping.”
Jays seek temporary home
The Toronto Blue Jays, who were banned from playing in Canada during baseball’s restart, were searching for a new ballpark in the U.S. where it could play its games.
Avila said that the Tigers were not contacted about having the Blue Jays play games at Comerica Park.
Back in action
JaCoby Jones and Demeritte, who had been nursing nagging injuries, returned to the lineup on Monday. Jones looks to be ready to return to the lineup when the season starts.