Detroit Tigers’ Tyler Alexander OK with return to ‘pen: ‘I proved … I can be a starter’

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — On Friday morning, Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch called left-hander Tyler Alexander into his office.

“He’s been very upfront and honest with me,” Alexander said.

Hinch explained the Tigers were gearing up to sign right-hander Michael Pineda, thus pushing Alexander out of the starting rotation and back to his swingman role with an emphasis on multiple-inning relief appearances.

Later that day, the Tigers signed Pineda to a one-year, $5.5 million contract. By Saturday morning, the 33-year-old — an eight-year MLB veteran — passed his physical examination to make the deal official.

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Pineda is a Tiger; Alexander is a reliever.

“Pushes me to the bullpen,” Alexander said Saturday. “I’ve been in that spot before: long relief, spot start here and there. I’m sure there will be spots throughout the year where I’ll get opportunities to start.”

In 2021, the Tigers used Alexander as a starter more than ever before in his three-year MLB career. He finished with a 3.81 ERA, 28 walks and 87 strikeouts in 106⅓ innings over 41 games (15 starts).

“I proved at the end of last year that I can be a starter,” Alexander said

He posted a 3.38 ERA with 18 walks and 52 strikeouts in 66⅔ innings as a starter. Coming out of the bullpen, he had a 4.54 ERA with 10 walks and 35 strikeouts in 39⅔ innings.

Alexander has started 25 of his 68 appearances in his career, making eight starts in 2019, two in 2020 and 15 in 2021.

“I kind of enjoy the adversity of it,” Alexander said. “It’s kind of been my role the past two years, just throw when we need you. I don’t really care. I like to be in the big leagues, no matter where I’m at. I want to be a starter. I’ll get my opportunities to start, and I just got to take advantage of it when I get it.”

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As Pineda, from the Dominican Republic, transitions into Tigers camp and switches from a visitor visa to a work visa, Hinch will keep Alexander in the starting rotation and continue preparing his arm to handle outings of three or four innings.

He is slated to start Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.

Hinch said he wouldn’t be surprised if Alexander ends up with at least 10 starts in the regular season. Last year, the Tigers used 13 pitchers as starters — with seven of them making more than 15 starts.

“He’s a guy that can help us win,” Hinch said. “One of the things he can do being so versatile is be successful at a couple of different roles. Wherever we think that’s best over the course of 162 games, we’re going to put him.”

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Alexander will return to the bullpen when Pineda gets up to speed.

The Tigers’ starting rotation features Pineda, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, right-hander Casey Mize, lefty Tarik Skubal and righty Matt Manning, with Alexander and righty Wily Peralta ready to step in.

“The depth we’ve got right now is really good,” Alexander said. “Guys that pitched really well last year might not be in the big leagues to start in the year or might not be in the rotation to start the year.

“But we have guys that can do it. I think depth is huge. It’s a long season, and it crept up on us this year (because of the MLB lockout), so I think that’ll be even more prevalent.”

Contact Evan Petzold 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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