Detroit Tigers’ Michael Pineda gets work visa approved. Here’s his pitching plan

Detroit Free Press

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Michael Pineda is pitching Saturday for the Detroit Tigers in his first spring training appearance.

The right-hander had his work visa approved, the Tigers learned Wednesday morning. He signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract March 18 but had to wait for his tourist visa to transfer to a work visa. Now, Pineda can work for the Tigers.

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This means he can finally pitch in games.

“He will now be a full functioning member of the spring training schedule,” Hinch said Wednesday. “He’ll follow Eduardo (Rodriguez) on Saturday at our place for a couple innings.”

The Tigers play the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday at Joker Marchant Stadium, and Pineda is expected to pitch two innings. He recently threw a two-inning simulated game but hasn’t faced many live hitters.

Pineda, who has minor-league options remaining, is likely to start at least two games in Triple-A Toledo before joining the Tigers.

“He already knows that,” Hinch said. “We need to build him up as a starter.”

Since Pineda has more than five years of MLB service time, he must consent to being optioned to Toledo. The Tigers have discussed the plan with Pineda and expect him to accept the option.

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The 33-year-old posted a 3.62 ERA with 21 walks and 88 strikeouts across 109⅓ innings in 22 games (21 starts) for the Minnesota Twins last season. He has a 3.98 ERA in his eight-year MLB career.

Once Pineda joins the Tigers’ rotation, left-hander Tyler Alexander will be pushed back to a swingman role out of the bullpen.

Alexander is lined up to start April 12 against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. He will be stretched out as a normal starter, so he shouldn’t be governed by pitch or innings restrictions.

“He’s going to start the fifth game of the year,” Hinch said of Alexander, “and that’s really as far as I need to take it.”

Preparing for Wily Peralta

Right-hander Wily Peralta, another pitcher delayed by the work visa process, could report to spring training this weekend.

The Tigers signed him March 16 to a minor-league contract.

But Peralta hasn’t been able to travel from the Dominican Republic to the United States. The 32-year-old has thrown numerous three-inning stints in his home country, but the Tigers need to assess his readiness in Lakeland.

“We’re hoping to get Wily Peralta into camp by the weekend,” Hinch said. “He sounds like he’s been throwing at a higher volume, but until we see him, we can’t really tell.”

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Peralta is unlikely to make the Tigers’ Opening Day roster, meaning he will begin the year in Triple-A Toledo.

Still, Peralta — entering his 10th MLB season — should make his way back to the Tigers early in the season as a long reliever. He had a 3.07 ERA with 38 walks and 58 strikeouts over 93⅔ innings in 19 games (18 starts) last season.

“I think he could do a lot of different things,” Hinch said. “We’re going to see where he’s at. For him, he could help us soon in the bullpen, if we put him there. A lot of that depends on how we see Pineda initially out of the gate with his readiness. The more that Pineda looks like he’s trending towards being ready sooner rather than later, the more likely it is for Peralta to impact us in the bullpen.”

‘Casey was good’

Right-hander Casey Mize made his third spring training start Tuesday, though it was an unofficial start on the TigerTown backfields against the New York Yankees. Tucker Barnhart caught him.

“Casey was good,” Hinch said. “It was a very low adrenaline (setting), no people in the stands. He faced all minor leaguers. … Had a little bit of stress, which I was happy that a couple guys got on. There were a couple errors behind him. He gave up a couple hits. It was more of a conditioning and endurance day than a quality spring training start. Getting him through four innings, he had to execute some pitches.”

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Mize has pitched five scoreless innings with two walks and nine strikeouts in two official starts. He is lined up to pitch again Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.

It will be Mize’s final start before the regular season.

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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