Detroit Tigers Newsletter: When ‘Skubal and Mize and hope for wet skies’ isn’t enough

Detroit Free Press

So, when, exactly, do we start worrying about the Detroit Tigers’ rotation?

Remember the Opening Day rotation? Matthew Boyd, followed by Julio Teheran (remember him?), Tarik Skubal, Jose Urena and Casey Mize, with Spencer Turnbull on the way and Michael Fulmer waiting in middle relief in case a spot opened up. It wasn’t quite the days of Verlander, Scherzer, Porcello, Price and Sanchez, but it seemed deep enough. That lasted just one turn through the rotation.

And now, 93 games later, it’s “Skubal and Mize and pray for wet skies.”

OK, that’s not really fair to Wily Peralta, who has a 0.34 ERA and 0.787 WHIP in 26 2/3 innings over his past five starts after another gem Sunday afternoon. This after going 1,532 days between MLB starts, from May 8, 2017 with the Brewers to June 19, 2021 with the Tigers. How long is that gap? Brady Hoke’s time at Michigan was only 1,421 days (no matter how long it felt). Put it another way: The time elapsed between Jim Harbaugh’s hiring in Ann Arbor and his next shot at a win over Ohio State (Nov. 27 this year) will be 2,525 days. But that’s not fair to Peralta, either; he’s actually won a game in Ohio.

Hello, and welcome to the Tigers Pitching Newsletter.

This week, we get to the Mize and Skubal portion of the rotation, which — as steady as the rookies have been since the start of May — is looking a little wobbly, at least while the dreaded “pitch limit” looms over them. (The Freep’s Evan Petzold says the plan is still a ‘go’ here.) Don’t get us wrong; keeping them (and Matt Manning, once he’s recalled for Wednesday’s game against Texas) healthy, and pitching into September, is in everyone’s best interests. But the innings they’re not pitching have to be covered by someone.

Someone, like, say, Tyler Alexander.

Oh, wait, he’s in the rotation, too, reports Our Man Petzold here; Alexander is due for a four- or five-inning stint Thursday against the Rangers. At which point he, too, will hand it over to the bullpen.

The same group that gave up 19 earned runs over 15 innings against the Twins in Minneapolis, then came back after a five-day break and held the Twins to one earned run in 10⅔ innings. The rest helped. Playing the next 14 straight without a day off won’t, though, even against the Rangers, Royals, Twins and Orioles (who are a combined 87 games under .500).

So, when exactly do we start to worry about the Tigers’ bullpen?

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The M&M boys’ rehab report

Michael Boyd? Matthew Fulmer? Something like that, anyway…Remember them? The good news: They’re both working on their rehab, as Our Man Petzold reports, though one appears closer than the other. Click here to find out whether the rotation will get its Matt back, or the bullpen will get its Mike back first.

Ya gotta believe!

But why are we in the newsletter industry such “nattering nabobs of negativism,” to borrow a phrase from a former vice president? (Other than, y’know, having watched the past 400 or so Tigers losses?) The Tigers are coming off a three-game sweep of the Twins — those dang wet skies kept it from being a four-gamer, right? — with at least one game in front of 35,000-plus at Comerica Park. The crowd was pumped! Phil Coke was pumped! The Freep’s Jeff Seidel was pumped! And he still is here as he reviews the positive changes in the lineup and in the way the Tigers go after other teams.

Ohhhhhhhhh…..klahoma, where the pitching prospects come whipping down the plains…

It was a good week for optimism, actually, as the Tigers filled in the 2021 draft class after their Sunday pitching picks, Jackson Jobe (click here for Our Man Seidel’s report on how Jobe went from a sophomore quarterback with a high-80s fastball to the best prep pitcher in the country) and Ty Madden.

Monday brought Rounds 2-10, with Rounds 11-20 squeezed in Tuesday before the All-Star game. So who’d they take? Here’s a quick look at their second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-rounder (and click on their names for the full draft report from Our Man Petzold):

INF Izaac Pacheco: Instead of taking a high school shortstop with the No. 3 pick, the Tigers took a high school third baseman in Round 2 and plan to make him a shortstop. (Which is what you do when you take a first baseman in 2020 and turn him into a third baseman, we guess. Perhaps 2022’s pick will be a shortstop they turn into a second baseman, just to work our way around the infield.) Anyway, he’s a 6-foot-4 lefty with some power; if he hits, they’ll find a spot for him.

RHP Dylan Smith: Hmm, an SEC-tested righty with four solid pitches? Where have we heard that bio before. The third-rounder shares an alma mater — Alabama — with Spencer Turnbull, and a scouting report — late-blooming strike-thrower who works off his fastball — with Casey Mize.

RHP Tyler Mattson: The fourth-rounder out of Bryant University in … Rhode Island? (Yeah, we had to look it up, too.) He has more of a relief profile, with a good fastball, OK changeup and some work to do on his other pitchers. A senior, Baseball America had him ranked at No. 362, but the Tigers took him at No. 104.

RHP Tanner Kohlhepp: Tigers amateur scouting director Scott Pleis says the fifth-rounder will be a starter. Notre Dame used him almost exclusively out of the bullpen in 2021, as the well-traveled Wisconsinite hit 99 mph on the radar gun and made second-team All-ACC (after pitching at Tennessee in 2019 and Iowa Western Junior College in 2020).

Read more about Rounds 6-10 here and Rounds 11-20 here.

Class acts

All this draft talk — and all the talk about the Pistons’ options at No. 1, the Wings’ expansion draft plans and the Wings’ many, many entry draft picks this year — got us wondering what the best draft classes for each Detroit franchise were. Click here for our choices, from Mel and Lem to Tram and Jack, and to find out why the Tigers’ best draft actually had THREE Hall of Famers.

3 to watch

OK, OK, hitting is important too…

Akil Baddoo: One walk in 11 games this month, but a sweet triple to get the Tigers started on Saturday night.

Miguel Cabrera: Milestone watch — 71 hits from 3,000 and six homers from 500.

West Michigan Whitecaps: Tork and Greene are in Double-A, but the pitching staff combined for a no-no on Thursday.

Happy birthday, coach!

Kimera Bartee, the former Tigers (and Reds and Rockies) outfielder turns 49 on Wednesday. Bartee went from a 14th-round draftee in 1993 to a Rule 5 draft pick (via the Twins and Orioles) to spending parts of four seasons with the Tigers from 1996-2000. In 220 games with Detroit, he hit .227 with four home runs, 12 doubles, five triples and 35 steals. Of course, he’ll be working his birthday, as the Tigers promoted him from minor-league baserunning coach and outfield coordinator to first base coach. (It’s part of the shuffle that started when third base coach Chip Hale left for the University of Arizona, as the Freep’s Dana Gauruder reported this week; George Lombard is back as bench coach, Ramon Santiago heads from first to third and Bartee is the new guy at first.)

Other Tigers birthdays this week: Phil Coke (39 on Monday), Mickey Stanley (79 on Tuesday), Heinie Manush (would have been 120 on Tuesday; died in 1971), Torey Lovullo (56 on Sunday).

Mark your calendar

Here’s hoping the Tigers — other than Gregory Soto, who got some work in Tuesday — enjoyed the All-Star break. This week, it’s seven straight games, with four against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park on Monday-Thursday followed by three on the road against the Kansas City Royals.

One matchup to watch Monday: The ongoing AL Rookie of the Year race, as Our Man Petzold notes here in his story lines to watch in the second half. Mize and  Baddoo are the Tigers contenders, with WAR totals of 2.8 and 1.3, respectively, while Texas’ Adolis Garcia is at 2.5 WAR.

TL;DR

For those wondering, both the Rangers and Royals were swept — by the Blue Jays and Orioles, respectively — over the weekend in their returns to action. We’d say this is a winnable week for the Tigers, but we said that before the series against the Twins to end the first half, and look how that turned out.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

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