Detroit – Bet if you asked Zack Short what he wanted for his 26th birthday — which was Saturday — it would be this:
The Tigers called him up from Toledo to fill the roster spot temporarily vacated by pitcher Jose Urena, who went on the 10-day injured list.
“Shorty has been here before and we like what he can bring,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We’ll play him tomorrow in the infield somewhere.”
It’s likely to be a short stay for Short, though. Urena, who is recovering from a cramp in his lower right forearm, is expected to only miss one start. On top of that, the Tigers are going to Milwaukee on Monday to play two interleague games. The first one Monday, a matinee, would’ve been Urena’s start.
Hinch might call up another pitcher.
“We’ll see how the next couple of days play out,” Hinch said. “Do we want to go with an all-bullpen day on Monday or call up an extra arm for that day.”
Right-hander Rony Garcia would’ve been an option but he pitched five scoreless innings for Toledo on Thursday and would be on three-day’s rest. Veteran Wily Peralta would be another option, though purchasing his contract from Toledo would require a 40-man roster move.
Hinch said he fully expects Urena to be ready to make his start in Chicago a week from Sunday.
“We decided to go with a cautious approach and skip a start,” he said. “It’s the right thing for him. He probably could’ve gutted it out and potentially been OK. But the fact that he had soreness yesterday and we would’ve had to wait until the day of the start (to be sure he was ready) and it being a day game — and he would have to swing the bat (National League rules) — there were just so many things in the negative column.
“We decided to be very cautious.”
Little tweak, big result
So what changed? After posting a 5.23 ERA in his first four starts, Tigers rookie Casey Mize has gotten on quite a roll. The Tigers are 4-2 in his last six starts and opponents are slashing .168/.261/.248 against him. He’s averaging six innings per start with an ERA of 2.19.
After he limited the Yankees to a run over five innings Friday, Mize tipped his cap to pitching coach Chris Fetter for one very impactful suggestion.
“He had me move over to the middle of the rubber,” Mize said. “I was on the far first base side and he thought it would be good for me to shift my feet over to the middle part of the rubber. That was about six starts ago and I’ve been on a pretty decent run ever since.
“Gotta give credit where it’s due and it’s due to him.”
More went into the turnaround than that, of course. Seventeen starts into his big-league career, Mize has a much better understanding of his own strengths and weaknesses, and, with Fetter’s help, a better idea how to attack the strengths and weaknesses of the hitters.
But moving his feet to the middle of the rubber helped dial in his command. He’s posted 33 strikeouts and 13 walks in his last 37 innings.
Not going to walk him
Back on May 5 in Boston, Hinch issued an intentional walk to J.D. Martinez with a base open in the ninth inning. It was just the fifth free pass he’s called for in more than 13,000 plate appearances going back to 2019.
But he opted not to walk Yankee’s Odor with first base open and a runner at third and two outs in the 10th inning Friday night. Not even with Odor already having three hits including a solo home run in the game. Not even considering Odor bats left-handed and righty Bryan Garcia was on the mound, with right-handed hitter Clint Frazier on deck.
Not even a little tempted to walk him.
It ended up being a moot point because the runner at third, Aaron Judge, ended up scoring on a passed ball during Odor’s at-bat.
“I know (walking Odor) was an option but it’s not something I seriously considered,” Hinch said. “You know my take on it. It doesn’t matter who you lose to. If you lose to the hitter on deck it might feel a little better but it’s still losing.
“Hitting is hard. I realize he had a couple of hits but that didn’t dictate my decision-making. I’ve deployed the intentional pass before and I’ll do it again. But being blunt, there was zero chance I was doing that last night.”
Around the horn
…Hinch provided updates on two veteran pitchers who are on the injured list. Julio Teheran (shoulder strain) is still a ways away. He has another appointment with a shoulder specialist next week and hasn’t begun any kind of throwing program. Erasmo Ramirez (pectoralis strain) has begun throwing in Lakeland but he is still at least a couple of weeks away from returning to live action.