Detroit Tigers in winter leagues: Drew Carlton responds; Elvin Rodriguez has ‘tiny issue’

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers reliever Drew Carlton has a history of throwing strikes and maintaining a respectable earned run average.

Surprisingly, the 26-year-old didn’t get off to the best start for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. The Tigers then removed him from the 40-man roster to make space for offseason transactions. He cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, where he is expected to begin the 2022 season.

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Carlton allowed three runs in his second outing in the Dominican Republic, but he has since bounced back. He owns a 2.84 ERA with one walk and seven strikeouts across 6⅓ innings in six appearances, as well as a 1.895 WHIP.

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This is Carlton’s second offseason pitching in the Dominican Republic. He also pitched for Leones del Escogido last winter and logged a 0.63 ERA, one walk and 11 strikeouts over 14⅓ innings in 14 games out of the bullpen.

He made his MLB debut for the Tigers in September 2021.

In Carlton’s four appearances, he logged a 4.91 ERA, four walks and one strikeout in 3⅔ innings. He had a 2.92 ERA, 10 walks and 49 strikeouts in 52⅓ innings across 33 games (two starts) for Triple-A Toledo in 2021.

Carlton boasts a 2.03 ERA, 43 walks and 211 strikeouts throughout his four-year career in the minor leagues. The Tigers selected him in the 32nd round out of Florida State in the 2017 draft.

What happened, Elvin?

The specifics of the situation remain unclear, but right-hander Elvin Rodriguez had to leave Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Republic after making his first start Oct. 29 against Estrellas de Oriente. But the 23-year-old expects to return this week.

“I’m going to stay pitching,” Rodriguez said Nov. 10. “I just had a tiny issue, health-wise.”

The Tigers added Rodriguez to the 40-man roster in early November, keeping him from becoming a minor-league free agent. As for his lone outing with Tigres del Licey, the 6-foot-3 righty allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with four strikeouts in 2⅔ innings.

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Rodriguez spent most of last season in Double-A Erie, logging a 5.83 ERA, 29 walks and 80 strikeouts over 75⅔ innings. (He missed about a month by traveling to the Dominican Republic for the birth of his child.) He also tossed two scoreless innings in one relief appearance for Toledo, registering three strikeouts and reaching 96 mph with his fastball.

The Tigers are planning for him to start 2022 in Triple-A Toledo, which should lead to his MLB debut whenever the big-league team needs pitching depth.

Paredes, Castro updates

In the Mexican Pacific Winter League, infielder Isaac Paredes had been stuck in a hitless slump (0-for-23) through eight games for Venados de Mazatlan. It wasn’t until last Friday that the 22-year-old collected his first hit.

Paredes went 3-for-5 with one double and two RBIs in Friday’s 7-2 victory in extra innings against Mayos de Navojoa. He then finished 1-for-5 in Saturday’s win and 2-for-4 with one double, two RBIs and one strikeout in Sunday’s loss.

After a solid weekend, Paredes is hitting .162 (6-for-37) with two doubles, four RBIs, seven walks and three strikeouts in 11 contests. He has a .295 on-base percentage but just a .216 slugging percentage.

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Meanwhile, second baseman Willi Castro has a .192 batting average (5-for-26) with one home run, two RBIs, zero walks and five strikeouts for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. He has one stolen base, too.

Both Paredes and Castro will compete for utility roles in spring training.

Although Paredes seems to have the edge coming out of last season, the Tigers believe in Castro’s offensive potential and will give him opportunities if he shows improvements. (The 24-year-old tied for fourth in 2020 American League Rookie of the Year voting with a .349 batting average.)

In 2020, Castro hit .220 with nine home runs, 39 RBIs, 23 walks and 109 strikeouts in 125 games for the Tigers. He has played 191 games over his three-year MLB career. Paredes, though, has just 57 games across parts of two seasons. He hit .208 with one home run, five RBIs, 10 walks and 11 strikeouts in 23 games but spent most of last year in Triple-A Toledo.

Other notes

• Right-handed starter Garrett Hill has dominated for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 1.98 ERA, three walks and 21 strikeouts over 13⅔ innings in five games (three starts). The 25-year-old was named to the AFL’s Fall Stars Game.

• Outfielder Eric De La Rosa, who replaced top prospect Riley Greene on the Rafters’ roster, is hitting .229 with two home runs, six RBIs, four walks and 16 strikeouts — with four stolen bases in six attempts — in 14 games. The 24-year-old finished 2021 by playing 29 games in Double-A Erie.

• Right-handed reliever Angel De Jesus continues to perform well for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. The 24-year-old commands a 2.45 ERA with two walks and one strikeout in 3⅔ innings across four relief appearances.

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• Right-handed reliever Angel Reyes has a 2.45 ERA with one walk and four strikeouts in 3⅔ innings over three games out of the bullpen. The 24-year-old is pitching for Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

• For now, Reyes is the only player from the organization competing in Puerto Rico. But that will change in December when Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez makes his winter debut for Gigantes de Carolina. The 26-year-old had a 5.96 ERA across 45⅓ innings in the big leagues last season and is due to earn roughly $1.8 million in 2022 if the Tigers decide to bring him back.

• In the Venezuelan Winter League, 21-year-old outfielder Carlos Mendzoa is hitting .190 (4-for-21) with two doubles, four walks and seven strikeouts in nine games. Also playing for Caribes de Anzoategui, 22-year-old righty reliever Williander Moreno has a 2.70 ERA with zero walks and two strikeouts in 3⅓ innings.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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