Detroit – When you don’t know what to expect, you make yourself ready for anything.
Just ask Tigers lefty reliever Tyler Alexander. His appearances this year have been, to say the least, well-spaced – six days apart, five days apart; and when he came into the game in relief of Casey Mize in the fifth inning Friday night, it was his first outing in eight days.
And he was razor sharp. He pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, 23 pitches and 18 strikes, with a two-out walk in the seventh the only blemish. Pretty impressive.
“I got off the mound before the game,” Alexander said, meaning he threw a bullpen earlier in the day Friday. “I’m trying to throw a little less (between outings). I want to get off a mound every day, but at the same time I know I don’t need to.
“I’ve been trying to throw every two or three days when I’m not getting in a game. I went eight days without throwing this time. It’s just how the games have gone.”
Alexander worked his way into a reliable, innings-eating pitcher for the Tigers the last two seasons. He made 10 starts and appeared in 22 other games out of the bullpen. He’s averaged three innings per outing.
But coming out of spring, it was unclear how manager AJ Hinch planned to use him.
“I didn’t know what kind of work I was going to get,” Alexander said of his mindset coming into the season. “When I left spring training, AJ told me my role was going to be undefined, and it has been undefined.”
He may have gotten pushed to the back of the line a little bit after giving up three home runs in his first 3.2 innings. Even for an aggressive strike-thrower like Alexander, for whom home runs are sometimes a byproduct of his aggression, that was excessive.
And yet, he came out attacking a red-hot Royals lineup right out of the gate Friday.
“Nothing changes in the way I pitch,” Alexander said. “I kept trying to tell myself, mistakes aren’t always going to be hit over the fence. But that was the stretch I was going through. I’d be making good pitches, throwing well, but the one mistake or two mistakes I would make would leave the park.
“One good outing isn’t going to change my mentality. But I keep telling myself, it’s not always going to happen. Stick to what I do and the results will be what they normally are.”
Alexander wasn’t the only somewhat forgotten reliever who got work Friday night. Both Buck Farmer, who hadn’t pitched since April 14, and Derek Holland (April 16) pitched scoreless innings.
“I think right now, we’re still trying to figure out roles in the bullpen,” Alexander said. “Trying to see who fits where. And as the season goes on, once we get a better idea of that, then guys will start getting more regular work.”
And however that shakes out for Alexander, it’s a good bet he will be ready for it.