For Detroit Tigers’ Alex Faedo, this major league debut caps off a long, grueling journey

Detroit Free Press

Alex Faedo finished his warm-up pitches and stood behind the mound in Comerica Park. He took off his glove and rubbed the ball, as if to savor the moment.

“It’s like a dream come true,” his mother, Kristie Donovan, said, sitting in Comerica Park. “that’s the best way to describe it — all that hard work paid off.”

Think about everything Faedo endured to get to this moment. This major league debut  — in which the Tigers lost to the Pirates in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday, 7-2 — was a story of perseverance and determination. Faedo, the Detroit Tigers‘ first-round pick in 2017, got COVID-19 in summer 2020 and was stuck in a hotel for 21 days.

“He could see Comerica Park from his hotel room,” his mother said.

“Poor thing,” Kelsey Barrett, his fiancée, said.

When the Tigers played that summer, Faedo would have the games on TV but watch through his window. And it was torture.

“He was like, ‘Mom, I can see it, but I can’t leave,’ ” she said.

Faedo lost weight and strength and just getting food was difficult.

“His boys would bring him food,” Barrett said.

“They weren’t even allowed to go up,” his mother said. “He couldn’t even order food from UberEats. They couldn’t bring it up.”

And he kept testing positive.

“He had to have two negative tests in a row, and then he would have a negative then it would positive,” Donovan said. “And he’s like, ‘Mom, I feel fine.’”

He was frustrated and bored out of his mind.

“I know he played a lot of video games in the room,” Barrett said. “There was nothing else you could do.”

Just play video games and FaceTime his family and friends.

“We’ve never FaceTimed and talked more than those 21 days,” Donovan said. “And I was like, ‘I’m gonna say it’s because you love your mommy so much.’ He’d say he was just bored. And I said, ‘No, no, I’m gonna say it’s because you love mommy so much.’ ”

Finally, he got healthy.

“By the time he got ready in Toledo, that season’s almost over,” Landy Faedo, his father, said.

After a forearm strain stopped his season, there was the worst twist of all.

He needed Tommy John surgery. And his journey became way more complicated.

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Growth in every area

Faedo didn’t pitch in 2021 as he recovered for the elbow surgery.

“He had to really, really stay positive,” his mother said. “Just not to get down.”

“What goes into that?” I asked.

“I’ve never seen anybody work harder,” his mother said. “Every single day, he just has this eye on the prize.”

“Did it change him?” I asked his family, sitting in Comerica Park.

“We were just talking about that,” Donovan said.

“He’s grown as an athlete,” Barrett said. “But also as a man, you know, mentally, emotionally, physically.”

“He just appreciates everything,” his mother said. “I think he recognizes how fortunate he is to have this opportunity.”

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From hiccups to helpful defense

So that is why this debut so much to Faedo, just to reach Detroit.

“Leading up to the start was the hardest part,” he said. “Last night was tough. Just to go to sleep.”

Everything about this start was strange. The game time. Playing the second game of a doubleheader.

“It felt like it was taking forever,” Faedo said “I just wanted to get out there but it was great. Once I got out there, it was a lot of fun.”

Before the game, he was nervous warming up.

“In the bullpen, had a couple of hiccups in there,” he said.

But he was settled down by pitching coach Chris Fetter.

“From then on, I felt pretty confident with everything.”

Pittsburgh hit the ball hard against him, making solid contact.

But he was helped by some outstanding Tigers defense, including a couple of double plays, some fantastic plays by Javier Bàez, tremendous defensive positioning, a great read in center field by Derek Hill and some noteworthy range by Spencer Torkelson.

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“They played a hell of a game today,” Faedo said. “Ton of balls off the bat where I was like, ‘Oh crap, that’s a hit.’ And then those guys are diving and they played a really good game out there. Felt like I was complimenting them every other pitch. They did great.”

He allowed two runs in five innings and kept his team in the game.

But just getting to Detroit, just to have this moment, said so much about him. His determination. His perseverance. And his drive

“I was proud of him,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He threw the ball effectively. I know you have a few hits but he hung in there gave us a chance to win.”

Faedo will stay with the team. He earned a trip to Houston for the next series and they have a doubleheader on May 10 against Oakland.

“He certainly did his part to make himself a viable candidate,” Hinch said.

Professional baseball is a game of opportunity. Faedo only got this start because the Tigers had a doubleheader on Wednesday and they are short-handed because of injuries to Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tyler Alexander.

The good news?

When Mize and Manning return, the Tigers will have several youngsters with experience, including Beau Brieske. And now Faedo.

After talking to the media, Faedo ducked out of the clubhouse. He walked toward the stairway that leads to the field and got a hug from Tigers general manager Al Avila — I swear, everybody in this organization is rooting for Faedo, not just because of his debut, but because of everything he has been through.

Then, he walked back to the field.

As the grounds crew was cleaning the field and the sky was turning dark, Faedo posed for pictures with his family.

What a wonderful way to end a horrible, exhausting journey.

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Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

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