Detroit Tigers’ Jose Cisnero isn’t an All-Star, but he helped Gregory Soto get to Denver

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers reliever Jose Cisnero could have been an All-Star in 2021.

Instead, the other half of the Tigers’ one-two punch out of the bullpen gets to make the trip to Denver. Left-hander Gregory Soto will represent his team on the American League All-Star roster. It’s the 26-year-old’s first All-Star Game in his third MLB season.

But don’t forget what Cisnero, 32, has accomplished this season. Without him, Soto might not be an All-Star.

“It’s like a competition,” Soto said. “It’s a challenge between one another — not in a bad way, in a good way. He is doing well. When he performs well, I want to perform well. When I perform well, he wants to perform well, as well. That’s been helping us, as you can see.”

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In 2021, Soto and Cisnero have combined for a 2.83 ERA across 70 innings and a 0.71 ERA in 25⅓ innings in June. The duo became the first pair of Tigers pitchers since 2015 (Blaine Hardy and Al Alburquerque) to post sub-0.60 ERAs while each throwing 16-plus innings over a 40-game stretch.

The individual results: Soto has a 2.94 ERA, 20 walks and 40 strikeouts over 33⅔ innings (36 games); Cisnero has a 2.72 ERA, 13 walks and 44 strikeouts over 36⅓ innings (39 games). Soto has six saves, while Cisnero has four.

“He’s pretty interchangeable with Soto,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Cisnero has done the right-handed version of coming in the highest of leverage (situations), bridging innings and all the way to closing out games. He’s doing it quite well, especially given where he came from in April, when he didn’t perform at his best.”

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Cisnero has been the Tigers’ best reliever since May 11. He struggled through April and early May with a 6.43 ERA in 14 innings, but he lowered his season-long mark by posting a 0.40 ERA in 22⅓ innings through the rest of May, all of June and two games in July.

“I think they’ve fed off one another and, quite honestly, I think they’ve pushed one another,” Hinch said. “They’re around each other almost 24/7. (Right-handed reliever) Joe Jimenez is with them, too. The back of the bullpen, the fact that they’ve bought in on pitching anytime they are given the ball has certainly helped me put them in good positions to be successful.”

It’s easy to see why Cisnero could’ve been Detroit’s All-Star representative.

“He does his business and takes the ball whenever I hand it to him,” Hinch said June 9, discussing Cisnero’s effectiveness. “He takes it with a smile, goes out and does his job, shows up the next day and tells me he’s available. Pretty awesome guy to have on our staff.”

What about everyone else?

There were other Tigers certainly worthy of bids to the All-Star Game.

Rookie starting pitcher Casey Mize, 24, has a 3.55 ERA, 27 walks and 75 strikeouts in 91⅓ innings across 16 starts. First baseman Jonathan Schoop, better suited for second base, is hitting .282 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs in 80 games. Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo — a 22-year-old rookie outfielder — has a .281 batting average, 23 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases in 65 games.

Hinch believes Mize and Schoop could be replacements if certain AL players cannot compete in Denver because of injuries, or if they simply choose not to play. And don’t count out Cisnero, either, if a reliever won’t be available to pitch.

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The All-Star Game selection process incorporates voting from fans and players, along with the Commissioner’s Office to determine the final spots. The Tigers ran into a situation in July 2018, when outfielder Nick Castellanos — a first-year All-Star in 2021 — missed out on the All-Star Game in Washington. (Joe Jimenez was the Tigers’ representative.)

Many — including then-manager Ron Gardenhire — thought Castellanos deserved the honor, the same way some think Mize, Schoop, Cisnero and Baddoo deserve to make the trip to Coors Field in Denver for this year’s Midsummer Classic.

“We as managers really don’t have any say anymore,” Hinch said. “It’s not the way it used to be, and there’s no tie breakers. I’ve been getting blamed for Nick Castellanos not being an All-Star from the time I was the (AL) manager in 2018. Nick, I was not the reason why you weren’t an All-Star that year.

“The same for Kevin Cash (this season). We’ll talk now about whether Soto’s going to pitch. Kevin’s going to want to get a quick study. He’ll call the managers and stuff like that and he will be able to run the game. And I was able to run the game in ’18. But the selection part has been taken over by the fans, the players and the league. The managers, we sit back, watch and wait.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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