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Tigers move Tyler Alexander to rotation, Daniel Norris to bullpen for now

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Pittsburgh – This was always the most logical answer. Not the most popular answer, of course. The popular answer would have included the phrase, “recalled right-handed pitcher Casey Mize from the taxi squad.”

But given most recent events, it stood to reason that left-hander Tyler Alexander would join the rotation and lefty Daniel Norris, still working back to form after testing positive for COVID-19 and missing summer training camp, would be used out of the bullpen.

Tyler Alexander

“It just didn’t look like Danny was ready to this on a starting basis,” manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game Friday against the Pirates. “He looked a little overwhelmed (in his first start last Sunday). We think eventually he will be back in it.

“We just have to get him to calm down, give him some easy innings and get his confidence back up.”

Alexander, who made eight starts last season, simply made it impossible for Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson to keep him out of the rotation.

“Alexander has been dominant, my goodness,” Gardenhire said. “He has what, nine straight strikeouts, set a record? As a manager you start thinking, who’s going good here.”

Alexander, pitching in relief of Rony Garcia in Game 1 Sunday against the Reds, tied Doug Fister’s American League record with nine straight strikeouts and set the Major League mark for relievers. He posted 10 strikeouts and didn’t allow a hit in 3.2 innings.

“He’s been a starter, so this isn’t a big deal,” Gardenhire said. “It’s what he wants to do. It’s an easy change. We’ll see as we go along how he does.”

More: How Top Tigers prospects are faring with 'unconventional' baseball on Toledo taxi squad

Gardenhire said Norris will pitch in tandem with right-hander Michael Fulmer, who is being limited to three-inning starts in his first year back after Tommy John surgery. But he’s not writing that plan in ink just yet.

“We’re just going to go for it and see how that goes,” Gardenhire said. “We’ll do it one time and if it doesn’t work, we’ll have to change. But right now that’s our plan, to piggyback Norris and Fulmer.”

Norris becomes the lone left-handed long relief option in the bullpen – which is what Alexander was through the first 10 games. The Tigers have lefty Nick Ramirez available on the taxi squad, but he is a non-roster player and his promotion would require a corresponding move on the 40-man roster.

“Our righties can get lefties out, too,” Gardenhire said. “We have a pretty good bullpen here. Once we get the ball to them, we don’t have to have that lefty stretched out. We have guys down there who have a chance to be future closers leading up to (closer Joe Jimenez). If we get to that situation, I’ll be really, really happy.”

Twitter @cmccosky