‘I felt at home, at peace:’ Impressive debut for Tigers pitcher Alex Lange

Detroit News

Cleveland – From Jake Rogers and Daz Cameron to John Schreiber, Gregory Soto and Bryan Garcia; from Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal to Akil Baddoo — the Tigers have had a steady stream of big-league debuts over the last couple of years.

Twenty-two, to be exact, since 2019. And they are all special, all heartwarming in their own way because each one represents a dream fulfilled. What’s better than that?

Right-hander Alex Lange was No. 22 on that list. He debuted here Saturday night and, frankly, it probably exceeded his dreams. He blew threw the heart of the Indians lineup in 16 pitches, getting ground-ball outs from Jose Ramirez and Eddie Rosario and striking out Franmil Reyes with a dastardly 3-2 curveball.

“Lot of fun,” Lange said Saturday night. “It was something I dreamed for a long time, something I envisioned. I just feel blessed and fortunate to be out there.”

Lange is an affable, good-natured 25-year-old, but he’s a different cat when he gets on the mound. There is an intensity roiling inside him that at any given moment can provide a boost or knock him off the rails.

Here’s what he said before the game Saturday:

“I cherish every moment I get to take the field and play,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s against little girls in pigtails on a sandlot field or in spring training. I want to compete. I want to be out there. I want the ball. I want to play.”

So hearing him describe what he was feeling walking down the steps from the bullpen to the field and then making the long trek from right-center field to the mound at Progressive Field — well, you didn’t expect him to go all Zen.

“I felt very calm out there,” he said. “I felt at home, at peace. Just ready to go. It was calming to be out there.”

There’s got to be teammates from LSU, or guys he’s played with since he was traded to the Tigers for Nick Castellanos two years ago who are asking, “Who is this guy and what have they done to Alex?”

“It was surprising,” he said. “The emotions were there. But I just utilized those emotions. I relaxed. I didn’t fight the emotions, just embraced them and that really helped.”

Of the 16 pitches he threw in the fifth inning Saturday, 12 were his signature curveball (which Statcast read as a slider) that produced five swings and misses. The other four were 97-mph fastballs, with which he got both Ramirez and Rosario. He set them up with curveballs and jammed them with fastballs.

The Reyes at-bat was one for his personal highlight reel.

“That guy’s got elite power and you’ve got to respect it,” Lange said. “He hammers fastballs so you’ve got to pick and choose your spots to challenge a guy like that.”

Just ask lefty Tyler Alexander. In the eighth inning, Alexander threw a change-up that Reyes reached out and flicked into the right field seats, but just foul. Alexander’s next pitch was a 92-mph fastball well above the top of the strike zone. Reyes knocked it into the right field seats again, this time fair.

Lange, who watched Reyes hit two 400-foot-plus bombs Friday night, started him with two straight curveballs before showing him a fastball. But he got behind 2-1 and it was going to be all curveballs from that point on.

“I felt like the breaking ball was a good pitch,” Lange said. “He did a good job of laying off on 2-2, but I trusted my stuff and stuck to the game plan.”

He got Reyes to swing over a curve in the dirt.

“That walk back to the dugout after a clean inning is pretty good, anytime,” Lange said.

Twitter@cmccosky

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