Detroit Tigers reliever Jose Cisnero unlikely to return this season due to injury

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch isn’t ready to shut down Jose Cisnero, but new information presents a dilemma: The right-handed reliever is unlikely to return from the injured list before the team’s Oct. 3 finale.

The 32-year-old was placed on the injured list Sept. 14 with a right elbow laceration, after slipping on the stairs in his home and needing eight stitches. The Tigers initially expected him back after his 10-day stint but have changed their plan with nine games remaining.

“He’s had a little bit of pocket swelling at the cut,” Hinch said Saturday. “That’s caused us to slow down with his throwing. I’m not as interested in getting him back up into a game if it’s only going to be for a game or two. We need to get the swelling out of there. He’s had a full workload. I would say it’s improbable that he pitches, but I’m not going to cancel it out yet. I don’t want to doubt anybody.”

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If Cisnero doesn’t return, he will finish with a 3.65 ERA, 31 walks and 62 strikeouts over 61⅔ innings in a team-high 67 appearances. The Tigers are also without lefty reliever Gregory Soto for the remainder of the season because of his left finger fracture. He made 62 relief appearances — second-most on the team — and posted a 3.39 ERA, 40 walks and 76 strikeouts over 63⅔ innings.

Without Cisnero and Soto, the Tigers have leaned on Michael Fulmer, Kyle Funkhouser, Alex Lange and Joe Jimenez in high-leverage situations.

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“That swelling, which is natural around eight stitches, has caused a pause in his throwing,” Hinch said about Cisnero. “He’s still active. He’s still moving. They’re working on it. If he has a huge bounce-back in the next couple of days, we may ramp him back up.”

But Cisnero will be shut down if he can’t make an appearance before the Tigers wrap up a three-game series (Tuesday-Thursday) with the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. At that point, Hinch doesn’t think it would make sense to bring him back for the final three games (Oct. 1-3) against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Assuming Cisnero doesn’t pitch against the Twins, the Tigers will wait until 2022 to get him back into games.

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Changeup vs. lefties

Lange pitched the sixth inning and one out in the seventh in Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. The 25-year-old rookie rolled through the sixth on nine pitches but allowed the Royals to snag a 2-1 lead on Adalberto Mondesi’s triple and Ryan O’Hearn’s ensuing single.

Lange threw 21 pitches: eight changeups, eight four-seam fastballs and five curveballs.

“Pitch usage is something we talk about all the time, but if I throw him in there against all lefties, you’re going to see the changeup increase,” Hinch said. “It’s just the reality of who he’s facing and the type of hitters he’s facing. I’m more interested in the smaller sample of when he’s throwing these pitches to what hitters.”

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For an example, Hinch discussed what happened to rookie starter Casey Mize in the third inning.

The 24-year-old fired a two-seam fastball down and away to Kyle Isbel, who shot the ball down the left-field line for a double. The double put runners on second and third with one out, allowing Whit Merrifield to drill a sacrifice fly and give the Royals a 1-0 lead.

“We don’t throw the ball down and away to Isbel,” Hinch said. “He did, and he paid for it with a run. That matters to me more than how many sinkers he threw. He threw it to the wrong hitter at the wrong time.”

Recalled from Triple-A Toledo on Aug. 22, Lange has posted a 1.69 ERA, six walks and 15 strikeouts in 16 innings over his past 14 outings, recently working himself into high-leverage situations. He earned his first save Sept. 20 in a 4-3 win over the White Sox.

Lange has thrown 72 fastballs (41.4%), 62 curveballs (35.6%) and 40 changeups (23%) since the beginning of September. (In August, he went with 47.6% fastballs, 32.9% curveballs and 19.5% changeups.) Of his 40 changeups this month, 31 were used to attack left-handed hitters.

“With Alex, I’m fine if he throws all these changeups, especially if I’m going to make him a left-handed specialist as a right-handed pitcher,” Hinch said. “The breaking ball and changeup are really going to play. We need to elevate the fastball a little bit more, and he’ll use that as he gets more and more comfortable with his best weapons.”

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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