Casey Mize? Daniel Norris? None of the above? Tigers playing coy on Sunday's starter
Correction: This story has been corrected to say that Kansas City rookie Brady Singer was the 18th pick in the 2018 draft.
Detroit — The TBA still sits in bold letters next to the Tigers’ probable starter Sunday against the Reds, and manager Ron Gardenhire isn’t giving any clues about whom he may eventually give the ball to.
“I know we will have a starting pitcher for that game,” he said, impishly. “I can’t announce anything until my general manager makes a statement.”
Al Avila has been quite mum on the subject, too. The options include but are not limited to:
►Rule 5 rookie Rony Garcia, who is on turn after pitching three innings in his debut against the Royals.
► Lefty Daniel Norris, who has thrown two intrasquad games in Toledo after missing summer camp in COVID-19 protocol.
► Right-hander Casey Mize, the club’s No. 1 prospect, who according to reports is stretched out beyond 80 pitches.
“We haven’t decided which way we’re going yet,” Gardenhire said. “We have a few days here, so we’re not going to rush a decision.”
Weather may play a role, too. Forecasts show an 80 percent chance of rain in the morning. It’s a 1:10 p.m. start.
Bringing Mize up now, seven days into the 60-game season, won’t cost the Tigers any service time. Mize was the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. The Tigers on Thursday faced Kansas City rookie Brady Singer, who went 18th in that draft, and on Friday the White Sox called up infielder Nick Madrigal, the fourth pick that year.
Both Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson didn’t seem convinced that Norris was fully ready to come up when they were asked about it earlier this week.
“He just needs more time on the mound,” Anderson said.
The suspense is killing us.
Demeritte back on board
Nice anniversary present. Outfielder Travis Demeritte was summoned from the taxi squad on Friday, exactly a year to the day of the trade that brought him from Atlanta in the Shane Greene trade.
“With everything that’s been going on, it just feels like I’ve been stuck in a time warp,” he said.
Demeritte, who replaces injured Cameron Maybin (strained right quad), was the Tigers’ regular right fielder for the final two months of the season last year. But he missed virtually all of summer camp with groin and quadriceps soreness and was put on the taxi squad.
“It was a minor injury, honestly,” he said. “But it wasn’t worth rushing it, and I’m thankful these guys gave me the opportunity to allow myself to get better, get healthy and get back to this opportunity here. It was unfortunate I couldn’t participate in spring training 2.0, but I’m here now.”
Demeritte slashed .225/.286/.343 in 186 plate appearances last year, with 64 strikeouts and 14 walks. He also had some growing pains playing right field.
“It was a whirlwind of emotions, really,” he said. “More than anything, I was just thankful I was out there and I got the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream. Every night for me, good or bad, was good for me regardless.
“Coming away from last year, I realize what it takes to excel at this level.”
Life on the farm
Demeritte gave a little peek into what life is life in Toledo these days.
“We’ve been playing games,” he said. “We’re seeing live pitching. In the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of live pitching. We have enough players to create what we had, coaches had to step in and participate here and there.”
Toledo hitting coach Mike Hessman, a legend at Fifth Third Field, with his own home run alley, dug his old first baseman’s glove out of the mothballs.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get to see him put on his display, putting balls in Hessman Alley up there,” he said. “But he plays a hell of a first base, I’ll tell you that. He’s still got it.”
Demeritte said he feels game-ready, facing the likes of Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, as well as big-leaguers Nick Ramirez and David McKay.
“It was pretty much like what a day would be up here,” he said. “We kept the schedule as close as we could to a real season, without having an opponent, which presented its own challenges. They did a good job of making it fun and making the best out of the situation.
“I think I’m prepared for it. I feel confident where I’m at right now.”
Around the horn
The Tigers have moved the start time of Saturday’s game with the Reds to 1:10 p.m. because of the threat of inclement weather later on. The game scheduled for 6:10 p.m. to accommodate an FS1 broadcast. The game will now be shown regionally on FSD.
…Gardenhire confirmed that outfield prospect Daz Cameron has returned to full duty in Toledo. Cameron missed all of camp, the last of six Tigers who’ve been cleared from the COVID-19 protocol. “He’s back, getting in shape,” Gardenhire said. “He’s been out a while and it’s going to take time, but he’s back on the field.”
…Gardenhire started Harold Castro at third base Friday in place of Jeimer Candelario, hitless in his first 17 at-bats this season. “He’s fighting it a little bit,” Gardenhire said. “He understands it. He wants to play well. But sometimes you put it on yourself, trying too hard, squeezing that bat and those things. A day off here and there isn’t a bad thing.”
Reds at Tigers
First pitch: Saturday, 1:10 p.m.
TV/radio: FSD, 97.1
►RHP Trevor Bauer (0-0, 1.42), Reds: He has five quality pitches, but last Sunday he was punching out Tigers left and right with his 96-mph heater. He had 13 strikeouts total and allowed just two hits over 7⅓ innings.
►RHP Michael Fulmer (0-0, 13.50), Tigers: Fulmer said Friday that for the first time since his Tommy John surgery, he was able to focus an entire bullpen session on sharpening his pitches and not on his body mechanics. He’s counting on having better fastball command than he had in his start against the Royals Monday.