Tigers’ Tyler Alexander not stressing his role, he just wants to collect outs

Detroit News

Clearwater, Fla. — Did Tyler Alexander love it that the Tigers went out and signed veteran right-hander Michael Pineda, a move that will eventually will knock him out of the rotation and back to the bullpen? Not especially.

But, was he going to pout and sulk about it? Was it going to affect him in any way? Not at all.

“It didn’t change anything,” Alexander said, after retiring all six hitters he faced in the Tigers’ 7-2 Grapefruit League loss to the Phillies at BayCare Ballpark Tuesday. “My mindset is always just pitch. I don’t care when or where or how — just get outs the best way I can.

“This didn’t change a thing.”

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Alexander started the game and threw 24 pitches (14 strikes) in his two perfect innings. He punched out Bryce Harper with a biting two-seamer to end the first.

“I felt as good as I hoped I could feel at this point,” the left-hander said. “A few more strikes would have been fine. I threw a live (batting practice) a couple of days ago and it was the same thing — I threw a few more balls than I like. The crispness of it will come with the more batters I face.”

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He threw all five of his pitches, getting three called strikes with his 90-mph four-seam fastball. After, he went to the bullpen to throw another 20 pitches.

“When you take a few weeks off and then start throwing again, you generally have the fastball and change-up, and not the breaking balls,” Alexander said. “Right now, though, it’s the cutter that I’m searching for a feel for. That will happen when I throw to more hitters.”

Tigers manager AJ Hinch reiterated that Alexander will stay in the rotation for now, and will likely start the season as the club’s fifth starter. Pineda is technically not in camp, still waiting for his work visa to be approved.

“I’m not convinced we can get Michael ready,” Hinch said. “We’re going to see. We are preparing (Alexander) mentally and physically to be a starter.”

In that case, Alexander would make his first start of the regular season April 12 against Boston.

“Tyler is handling everything, he always has,” Hinch said. “Since my first day here, he’s handled the unknown very, very well. Emotionally, he wants to be starting. But at the same time he understands that whatever he needs to do to pitch for us, in whatever role, he’s willing to do.

“As a manager, I want to defend him because he deserves to be in a rotation and given an opportunity. But the best interest of the club might be for him to make random starts rather than every five days. He will take the ball whenever I give it to him.”

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Four in the fold

Four of the Tigers’ eight arbitration-eligible players agreed to one-year deals with the club on Tuesday — third baseman Jeimer Candelario ($5.8 million), reliever Michael Fulmer ($4.95 million), catcher Dustin Garneau ($1.175 million) and utility man Harold Castro ($1.275).

That leaves relievers Jose Cisnero, Joe Jimenez, starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull and outfielder Victor Reyes on the list. Both the team and the players had until 1 p.m. Tuesday to submit salary numbers to the league.

The Tigers can continue to negotiate contracts with those players up until the arbitration date.

Faedo sent down

The Tigers trimmed four pitchers off the training camp roster Tuesday morning, including former first-round pick Alex Faedo, who was assigned to Low-A Lakeland.

“We have a pretty regimented program for him for the first month,” Hinch said. “Then he will get to the upper levels where he’s supposed to be.”

Faedo, who saw his first game action in two years on Sunday in Tampa, is building himself back up after Tommy John surgery.

Additionally, right-handed pitcher Angel De Jesus was reassigned to Triple-A Toledo and right-hander Elvin Rodriguez was reassigned to Double-A Erie. Right-hander Nivaldo Rodriguez was reassigned to minor league camp.

Bullpen battle resumes

The Tigers got a second look at a group of relievers vying for one of the final bullpen spots Tuesday.

Right-hander Jason Foley, with his power sinker (hitting 97 mph), got a double-play grounder in a scoreless 12-pitch inning.

Right-hander Will Vest had a 10-pitch inning featuring a 95-mph sinker and change-up.

Impressive, both.

Veteran Jacob Barnes, a non-roster invitee, had some bad luck allowing four runs in the sixth. All four runs came after Jack Lopez, an infielder by trade playing center field, lost a two-out fly ball in the high sky. It ended up being a 31-pitch inning, but Barnes got six misses on 10 swings at his cutter.

Around the horn

… Lefty Joey Wentz, though he walked the first batter he faced and needed 20 pitches to get through a scoreless inning, was hitting 95-96 with both his two-seam and four-seam fastballs. “Another step forward for him,” Hinch said. “If he can stay over the plate he can be effective pretty soon at the Major League level.” The long-term plan for Wentz is as a starter, possibly at Triple-A Toledo.

… The Tigers runs came on solo homers — one by Jonathan Schoop and the other by Garneau.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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