Tigers throwing rookie Beau Brieske right into the fire, and he’s loving it

Detroit News

Minneapolis — It wasn’t that awfully long ago that Beau Brieske was paying for tickets to go to Chase Field so he could watch Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers beat up on his hometown Diamondbacks.

He won’t need a ticket Saturday. He will be starting for the Tigers against Kershaw and the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Heady stuff for your second big-league start.

“It’s really cool, honestly,” said Brieske, whose big-league debut came on the day Miguel Cabrera whacked hit No. 3,000. “I don’t want to make too much of it.”

That’s the professional athlete speaking. The 15-year-old Beau Brieske is going out of his mind right now.

“I grew up watching Diamondbacks games and I’ve seen him come in and dominate quite often,” Brieske said. “That was always the game you wanted to go to as a kid. With Kershaw starting, everyone was watching. It’s been really interesting to see how he’s gone from a guy who came in with some of the best stuff in the league and how he’s been able to progress as his career has gone on.”

To this day, Brieske, who grew up outside of Phoenix, makes it a point to watch Kershaw’s starts. He’s well aware that Kershaw, at age 34, is 3-0, allowing just five runs in 17 innings with 23 strikeouts and no walks this season.

“I watch to see the way he goes about his game plan, the way he attacks hitters and how consistent he is with sticking to his approach,” Brieske said. “Knowing that he puts the ball where he wants to, he’s going to be fine, no matter who the hitter is.

“I can take some things from his game, for sure.”

With some younger players, Tigers manager AJ Hinch has been careful to ease their baptism into the big leagues — maybe letting them get their feet wet first. With Brieske, it has been a full submersion right out of the gate.

“He can handle it,” Hinch said. “I’ve said this about other players, Spencer Torkelson, Akil Baddoo — they have to get all the firsts out of the way. Some of that is going to be on the field and some of it is just psychological. You look out there and you are sharing the mound with a future Hall of Famer.

“There’s no other way to do it. You can’t soft-sell your way into the big leagues.”

Brieske, 24, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I feel like that’s the best opportunity for you to grow and get better,” he said. “You need that challenge. One, you see where you are at. Two, it gives you the best idea of where you stand and what you need to improve on. It shows your weaknesses and it shows your strengths.”

Brieske, pitching in Game 2 of the doubleheader against the Rockies last Saturday, gave up a couple of home runs and took the loss in his debut. But it was clear, in terms of poise, presence and his pitch arsenal, that the level was not too big for him.

“I don’t want to say I feel right at home or that I’m comfortable because I don’t want it to seem like it’s a comfortable feeling to where I don’t need to work and get better,” Brieske said. “But it is comfortable in the sense that it feels like I belong. I know I am good enough to be here.

“But there are also things I want to continue to strive for.”

Brieske will be facing a Dodgers lineup — the fifth-most productive in the National League — that features his friend and former travel ball teammate Cody Bellinger — both from Chandler, Ariz.

“The way I went into this week was, just be great at what you’re good at,” Brieske said. “Just take what I’m good at and go be great at it.”

Shaking it up

Hinch gave third baseman Jeimer Candelario a day off Thursday — his first of the season. The fact that Candelario is hitting .143 with 17 strikeouts and just three extra-base hits certainly went into the decision.

“Just trying something different,” Hinch said. “Give Jeimer a day off to go watch the game and decompress a little bit. These guys are pressing pretty hard trying to solve a couple weeks of problems in one game. When you get into that mode, it’s counterproductive.”

Facing Twins right-handed starter Bailey Ober Thursday, who has been stingy against right-handed hitters but hittable for lefties, Hinch started left-handed-hitting Harold Castro at third base. He also started Derek Hill, a right-handed hitter, in center, instead of struggling left-handed-hitting Akil Baddoo.

“Just trying to maybe find a spark at the top,” Hinch said. “The Twins can be run on if you get base runners.”

Baddoo has been scuffling, too, going 4-for-36 to start the season with 11 strikeouts.

“He just looks like he’s a little bit in-between,” Hinch said. “He hasn’t looked himself most of the year. The at-bat quality has wavered and the more it’s piled up on him, the more he’s tried to make up for it. It is chasing your tail a little bit at that point.”

Around the horn

Miguel Cabrera also got the day off Thursday. Hinch will try to give Cabrera day games off after night games as much as possible, especially day games that start at noon Central Time, like Thursday’s did.

Robbie Grossman’s single in the first inning Thursday extended his hitting streak to nine games.

Tigers at Dodgers

Series: Three games at Dodger Stadium

First pitch: Friday-Saturday — 10:10 p.m.; Sunday — 4:10 p.m.

TV/radio: Friday-Sunday — BSD, 97.1;

Probables: Friday — LHP Tyler Alexander (0-2, 7.20) vs. LHP Tyler Anderson (1-0, 2.84); Saturday  RHP Beau Brieske (0-1, 5.40) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (3-0, 2.65); Sunday  LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.03) vs. RHP Walker Buehler (2-1, 2.55).

Alexander, Tigers: He’s not been himself the last two starts. Pitching on cold, ugly days, he’s not had his usual precise command. He threw 42 pitches in the first and his only inning against the Yankees, then got tagged for eight hits and five runs in 3.2 innings against the Rockies last time out.

Anderson, Dodgers: He’s not finished five innings in any of his three starts, but it’s not been for a lack of effectiveness. The 82-mph average exit velocity on balls in play against him and the 24% hard-hit rate are in the top two percent in baseball. With his elevated four-seam (90), cutter, slider, sinker mix, he’s getting a 35% chase rate.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter@cmccosky

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