No, Casey Mize won’t be walking into Comerica Park with headphones on and blaring music, a fierce look on his face and a quiet demeanor on Monday. That was Justin Verlander’s routine.
“I listen to more relaxing and calming music, honestly,” Mize said Sunday morning. “Yeah, I guess we’re different
“I listen to more relaxing and calming music, honestly,” Mize said Sunday morning. “Yeah, I guess we’re different in that regard.”
Still, as the Tigers’ top prospect prepared for his first home start against the Cubs on Monday (7:10 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV), there’s a sense that this is the start of a new routine. Now that Mize and his wife have settled into Detroit, everything from that short commute to the ballpark, that walk to the clubhouse, the warmup routine in the outfield, all the way to those steps from the dugout to the mound and back is a routine that will hopefully be repeated for years.
“I just hope there’s fans at the ballpark during those years,” Mize said. “I guess I’ve got a little experience during Summer Camp pitching in Detroit with an empty stadium. I guess I’m a little more comfortable with that, or used to it. … I’m looking forward to getting to Comerica and pitching against the Cubs.”
Mize made his Major League debut on the road Wednesday against Chicago’s other team, the White Sox, after getting the heads-up last weekend that he’d be getting the call. This is different, partly because he’s pitching at home, but also because he has had a chance to settle into a between-starts routine.
He had a taste of that in the Minor Leagues last year, and a sneak preview in Spring Training. This is different, not just because of the game intensity but the information involved. Mize has worked with analytics since his college days at Auburn, and he used spin rates in pitch design. But he doesn’t want to go overboard with it in his game prep.
“I think too much information can be counterproductive,” he said. “So I think whenever you’re handed information and data, you really have to filter through what matters to you. For instance, do I care what a left-handed hitter does against a 12-6 curveball? Not really; I don’t throw a 12-6 curveball. So I think I have to figure out what am I looking for within this data and what am I going to do to hitters, and I’m going to try to seek out what they do against similar pitches in similar counts and things like that.
“I definitely want to be informed and be aware of what their strengths and weaknesses are, but for the most part I’m going to stick to my strengths and continue to do what I do. But I’m going to make adjustments where I need it.”
That said, the metrics from Mize’s debut were impressive. The 38.7 inches of vertical movement on his splitter is 18 percent above the Major League average, a 5.8-inch difference according to Statcast.
Mize said he spent his between-starts bullpen session focusing on honing his cutter, a pitch that didn’t register on Statcast in his debut, but which he likes to use against left-handed hitters and change eye levels to set up his diving splitter. The Cubs have prominent lefty hitters such as Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Jason Kipnis.
“Like I mentioned after my last start, it was kinda just backing up on me and spinning over the heart of the plate,” Mize said. “So we just tried to get on top of that, just trying to really hone that in because that’s a pitch that I need to throw a bunch.”
The Cubs’ offense entered Sunday with one of the widest gaps in baseball between hit total (184) and strikeouts (163), though it’s tempered with a National League-best 112 walks.
Gardy sympathizes with Tito
Manager Ron Gardenhire said he exchanged text messages with well wishes for Indians manager Terry Francona, who missed this weekend’s series following a medical procedure to address a gastrointestinal condition.
“I texted him yesterday and told him I was thinking about him and that type of thing and to stay safe,” Gardenhire said. “And he said, ‘Boy, it’s been tough, a tough road.’ Hopefully he’ll get through this thing. It’s been tough for everybody, and especially tough for him.”