DETROIT — Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said before Saturday’s 7-2 loss to the Rays that he had an innings count in mind for Casey Mize. That was before a three-run, 35-pitch second inning that pushed Mize’s pitch count to 48 and brought Bryan Garcia out of the bullpen for the third inning.
These are the decisions that Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter will have to make down the stretch, as they try to balance the desire for Mize and fellow Tigers rookie starter Tarik Skubal to keep learning on a regular starter’s routine with not pushing their innings much further in their first full big league seasons following last year’s abbreviated campaign.
It wasn’t easy when Mize rolled through three perfect innings on just 34 pitches last Sunday in Cincinnati. It was a little simpler when Mize scuffled in his second inning Saturday.
Mize struck out his first batter of the inning, but Randy Arozarena made him throw eight pitches to do it, nearly escaping an 0-2 count before Mize caught Arozarena looking at a 3-2 slider. Joey Wendle hit a one-out triple off the fence in left-center, then beat the throw home on Mike Zunino’s ensuing grounder to third. Another triple, this time from Kevin Kiermaier, scored Zunino before Brandon Lowe plated Kiermaier with a sacrifice fly.
Add in an eight-pitch walk to ninth batter Taylor Walls, and Mize labored through the inning. Three balls in play that inning topped 100 mph in exit velocity, with Lowe’s 105 mph sac fly the hardest. Mize’s slider was inconsistent, and his splitter wasn’t deceptive enough to garner much reaction. Though Mize finished with two strikeouts, he drew just three swings and misses and nine called strikes.