'Out of the blue': Trio of Tigers prospects pumped to get their call to the big leagues
Chicago — Isaac Paredes had no earthly idea how to find the Tigers’ charter airplane hanger Sunday. Heck, even if you’ve been there before it’s hard to find. Excited as he was — it was his first big-league flight — he left plenty early.
“I didn’t know where I should be,” he said, through Tigers interpreter Carlos Guillen. “I found a guy who speaks Spanish and he said I had to wait, I was way too early.”
Paredes may only be 21, but he’s got survival skills. He immediately texted teammate Casey Mize to get the 411 on how to get to the plane.
“Casey opened the door for me,” he said, smiling.
It’s been that kind of 48 hours for Paredes, Mize and Tarik Skubal, three of the Tigers’ six top prospects who got the news either Saturday night or Sunday that they were being promoted to the big leagues.
“I didn’t know I was coming to the big leagues,” said Paredes, a third baseman who was making his first big-league start against the White Sox Monday. “I thought I was coming to be on the taxi squad. Just pretty amazing to have the opportunity to compete with the best players in the world.”
His nerves were still jangling when he got to Guaranteed Rate Field Monday, too. He didn’t even look to see if he was in the lineup.
“I was so nervous when I got here I didn’t check the lineup on the board,” he said. “When I got to my locker I checked my cell phone. It was my wife. She texted me a screenshot of the lineup. She’s who told me I was in the lineup tonight.”
Mize and Skubal, two starting pitchers, got the news Saturday night in separate calls from Tigers vice president of player development David Littlefield. They were stretching together at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, kind of looking at each other, wondering if they knew, wondering if they should bring it up.
“We didn’t know if either one of us got the phone call,” Skubal said. “Casey was finally like, ‘Hey, did you get a phone call last night?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah?’ Ah. It was pretty cool. We had our little moment there.
“It’s really exciting.”
Skubal, who battled COVID-19 through most of July, will debut against the White Sox on Tuesday. He’ll likely be limited to 50-60 pitches.
“It was out of the blue,” Skubal said of the call. “I didn’t really expect it, honestly, just because of where I was at, getting built up and going through the throwing progression. I just didn’t expect it. But it’s great news, regardless.”
The thing is, he was throwing too good in intrasquad games and live batting practices in Toledo to deny him. Besides his mid- to upper-90s fastball coming out of his long left arm, he’s also developed a true slider to use with a steadily-improving curveball.
“Talking to Jim Leyland and Alan Trammell (special assistants to general manager Al Avila who recommended the promotion), they said he was throwing the living fire out of the ball,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We will watch and see how he does. We’re going to protect him, obviously.
“We’re not going to kill him with pitches and innings. When he gets up around 50, we will see where he’s at.”
Left-hander Daniel Norris would likely be available to work in tandem with Skubal.
“I just try to execute pitches,” Skubal said. “That’s really what I try to do every time I toe the rubber. I felt like I was doing a good job of that (in Toledo). I’m healthy and I feel strong. I just try to control what I can control and let everything else go.”
Mize, who will debut here on Wednesday, is stretched out beyond five innings. All three players met with Gardenhire Monday morning.
“I just told them to take it all in and enjoy every moment,” he said. “Don’t try to do too much, just play baseball. Do what you did to get here. I’m just excited for them, more than anything else. I’m excited to watch them, just like everybody else is.”
Paredes, who shaved his head for his big-league debut, had a one-word answer for how he was feeling, just hours before his big-league debut, and no translation was needed – Fabuloso!
“I am going to enjoy it,” he said. “Not many people get to fulfill their dream. I’m pretty happy to put finally put my feet on a major league field.”
Gardenhire tried his best to downplay this day. He said he’s been managing and coaching a long time and he’s seen countless prospects make their debut. He said sometimes it’s storybook, sometimes it’s a nightmare.
But there’s no downplaying what it means for an organization that’s been losing games in droves for three years to finally see some tangible evidence of a resurgence.
“This is the fun part and I hope it turns into something wonderful for Tigers’ fans,” Gardenhire said. “Even after I’m long gone from this job, they’ll be winning baseball games and I’ll be proud of that.”
Tigers at White Sox
First pitch: Tuesday, 8:10 p.m.
TV/radio: FSD, 97.1
LHP Tarik Skubal (MLB debut), Tigers: Skubal, a 9th round pick in 2018, hasn’t pitched above Double-A, but he dominated both that level and High-A last year, accumulating 179 strikeouts in 122.2 innings. He’s 6-3 and throws his mid-to-upper 90s fastball downhill at hitters.
RHP Dylan Cease (3-1, 3.26), White Sox: The Tigers took advantage of an extra out Wednesday at Comerica Park to score four unearned runs off him. Willi Castro and Jonathan Schoop both homered off him.