Detroit Tigers promote reliever Drew Carlton from Triple-A Toledo for MLB debut

Detroit Free Press

CINCINNATI — The Detroit Tigers needed help in their bullpen, so they went to Triple-A Toledo for an established strike-throwing reinforcement to help them through the final five games of their road trip in National League ballparks.

Right-hander Drew Carlton was added to the 40-man roster and promoted Saturday for his MLB debut, after the organization demoted infielder Zack Short after Friday’s 15-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. The 40-man roster is now at 38 players.

The Tigers selected Carlton in the 32nd round of the 2017 draft from Florida State.

“It’s every kid’s dream growing up playing baseball to one day make it to the big leagues,” Carlton said Saturday. “Nobody can take that away from me. I’m very excited to be here and show what I’ve got.”

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For Toledo this season, Carlton posted a 3.12 ERA with 10 walks and 48 strikeouts in 49 innings over 29 games (two starts). He is stretched out to pitch anywhere between one to four innings, depending on his pitch count.

“We had a game last night in Omaha, and I didn’t throw that game,” Carlton said. “Doug (Bochtler), our pitching coach, gets me and says, ‘Come in the office.’ (Manager Tom) Prince, all the other coaches and trainers, everybody’s in there.

“Prince told me it’s his proudest moments when he gets to tell guys that they’re going to the show. He said, ‘Congratulations, you’re going up tomorrow.’ I was just flooded with emotions, so excited and so happy. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Carlton’s career results in the minor leagues: 2.06 ERA, 43 walks, 210 strikeouts over 209⅔ innings. And the righty has done it with a fastball in the upper-80s and low-90s.

“I’ve always tried to throw hard,” Carlton said. “When I have tried to throw hard, it usually doesn’t work out for me. The ball runs back towards the middle and the ball gets hit, so I just try to stick to my roots of commanding the zone and sticking to the corners of the plate.”

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He logged a 1.46 ERA, 18 walks and 65 strikeouts over 68 innings for Double-A Erie in 2019, but the minors were canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So Carlton went to the Dominican Republic in the offseason.

Pitching for Leones del Escogido, the 25-year-old made 14 appearances out of the bullpen, boasting a 0.63 ERA with one walk and 11 strikeouts in 14⅓ innings during the regular season. He then tossed 4⅓ scoreless innings in six outings during spring training.

“Sometimes we get caught up in prospect status and who’s ahead of who,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Saturday. “Sometimes you got to go with the guy who keeps getting outs. Drew has overcome being overlooked. I told him in my office, ‘This can last a day, this can last a decade.’

“Take respect for the opportunity, but also, it’s the same game with the same philosophy of pitching to leverage counts and pitching to the strike zone where we feel like they can’t hit it.”

‘A lot of things to work on’

Short, 26, provided the Tigers with reliable defense at shortstop in his rookie campaign, but his lacking offense forced the Tigers to look in a different direction following the reinstatement of utility player Niko Goodrum, a Gold Glove finalist at shortstop in 2020, from the injured list.

“It was generated by the need for an extra arm,” Hinch said. “Messages are always being delivered when guys are here, when guys leave, promotions, demotions, things like that. Yeah, Zack’s got a lot of things to work on, but he’s a winning player. He can do a lot of things to help you win.

“He’s got to refine some things and become more consistent, like every player does. We sent him with some marching orders, so to speak, on adjustments that we’d like to see him make in at-bats that hopefully he can experiment with getting a more consistent flat swing plane.”

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The improved play of fellow utility player Harold Castro, suddenly flashing power in his bat, didn’t help Short’s chances, either.

Short hit .147 with six home runs, 20 RBIs, 20 walks and 57 strikeouts over 57 games in his stay in the big leagues. If the Tigers want another look at him, they could call him back up midway through September.

“He’s part of a group of players that are going to be competing for our team moving forward,” Hinch said. “Part of this competition is going to start in Triple-A now.”

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

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