Load management plans loom for Tigers rookie Casey Mize
Detroit — It remains the elephant in the room, and as rookie Casey Mize continues to mature right before our eyes, posting three straight quality starts, its presence seems to be growing.
Nobody wants to talk about it but at some point, load management is going to be an issue for him. He’s already matched the seven starts he made last year and he’s thrown 10 more innings — 38. At what point will the Tigers have to back him off to avoid having to shut him down completely later? And how will that look?
Manager AJ Hinch said before the game Thursday that it could happen early in June.
“But I don’t want our guys to think too much about that,” he said. “I want them to go out and pitch. If you get too fixated on where they are right now, you lose track of really important innings developmentally at this level and competitively at this level.
“We are happy where it’s at right now.”
All of the Tigers pitchers are, in a sense, on the clock in terms of workload. The veteran pitchers like Matthew Boyd, Jose Urena and Spencer Turnbull, obviously, will have longer leashes. But every starter in the rotation except Mize has already had some type of layoff.
Boyd missed a start and was out for 11 days with knee tendinitis. Rookie Tarik Skubal spent a 10-day stretch working limited innings out of the bullpen. Urena has had a couple of short outings. And Turnbull got a late start because of COVID-19.
“Don’t tell Casey, but we’re thinking about taking him out of the rotation in early June,” Hinch said.
Not completely out of the rotation, though.
“One of the things we’re considering doing with Casey, because his routine is so regimented and he’s so good at it, we may leave him in the rotation and let him go one time through the order, two or three innings,” Hinch said. “Dare I say, opener? A shorter stint but his routine is the same.
“You can’t just sit on these guys and put them on ice and then ramp them back up. Just how your arm and your body functions, you can’t just press an on and off button, as much as you’d like to.”
The key point for Hinch, though, is he wants all the pitchers to be blissfully unaware of any pending load management plans. He wants them to compete full-out every time.
“We want our guys pitching without a governor on them,” he said. “Then, if eventually we need to alter their plan, we will.”
Closer remains unnamed
Michael Fulmer, with speedy Jarrod Dyson on first representing the tying run in the ninth inning, calmly dispatched Jorge Soler on a pop up and then struck out pesky Andrew Benintendi, who had three hits in the game, to lock down the 4-3 win Thursday.
And Hinch knew what question would be asked first. And the answer is no, Fulmer is not the new closer. There is still no clearly defined closer and that's how Hinch likes it. But that said…
"Michael is another good weapon," Hinch said. "We talked earlier about how it could evolve into this. He just goes out and continues to perform. He rescued us with the bases loaded the other day. He closed a game in Boston. He closed the game today.
"I like having multiple guys down there to rely on. (Jose) Cisnero bounced back very, very, effectively today. And Gregory Soto has performed well, though he won't feel good going home today. We have a lot of weapons and Fulmer being down there gives me a lot of options."
Kudos to a baseball man
Arnie Beyeler, manager of the Tigers' Double-A affiliate in Erie, earned his 1,000th managerial victory Wednesday night. Not a small feat.
“Arnie Beyeler is a tremendous baseball man,” Hinch said. “He’s been around a lot of organizations and a lot of winning organizations. We sent him a bunch of messages this morning. I joked with him, ‘Not bad for an old baseball man to stick around that long and get those wins.’
“He’s all baseball all the time. The players enjoy playing for him. He’s done it all in this game. Big hat tip to him for his journey and for all he’s given to this game.”
Beyeler, 57, has been managing in the minors since 2000.
“It's a number and it's pretty cool,” Beyeler told the Erie Times-News. “I joked with the guys it just means I'm old and have been around too long. It's nice to win, and I've been blessed to be around a lot of good players and coaches to help me along the way.”
Tigers prospect Riley Greene had three hits to help Beyeler get this last win.
Around the horn
Coming into the series against the Royals, nobody in baseball hit left-handed pitching worse than the Tigers and it wasn’t even close.
Before Wednesday, they were slashing .178/.242/.243 against southpaws. But they beat up on two of them the last two days. They got four runs on seven hits to beat lefty Danny Duffy Wednesday night. Then they chased lefty starter Daniel Lynch with a four-run outburst in the second inning Thursday.
On deck: Cubs
► Series: Three games at Comerica Park
► First pitch: Friday — 7:10 p.m.; Saturday — 4:10 p.m.; Sunday — 1:10 p.m.
► TV/radio: All games on BSD/97.1; Sunday also on MLBN
► Probables: Friday — RHP Jake Arrieta (3-3, 4.31) vs. LHP Tarik Skubal (0-5, 5.67); Saturday — RHP Trevor Williams (2-2, 5.81) vs. RHP Jose Urena (1-4, 3.60); Sunday — RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 6.23) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (2-3, 1.94).
► Arrieta, Cubs: After five stingy starts, he had a rough one last time out against at Cincinnati, giving up seven runs and three homers in 3⅓ innings. He may have lost an inch off his sinker, but his curveball has been nasty — hitters are 1-for-16 against it with a 38% whiff rate.
► Skubal, Tigers: He’s looking to build off his most encouraging start of the season. He struck out eight in five innings against the Twins, allowing only two solo home runs. His fastball, both in command and velocity, seemed to be back up to his standards.