Detroit — Before we break down why Tigers’ rookie Beau Brieske was kicking himself after he was nicked for three home runs in 5.2 innings Monday, let’s recognize how important it was that he was able to pitch into the sixth inning.
The bullpen had covered 28 innings over the previous seven games and the Tigers and Twins were scheduled to play at least 14 innings Tuesday. It was vital for Brieske to provide length.
And two innings in, it didn’t look like he would.
He wasn’t commanding his curveball or slider and the Twins were sizing up his fastball and laying off his change-up. He’d only allowed a run on a couple of hits and two walks, but it felt like he was hanging by a thread.
Then he started landing his breaking balls.
“It felt like it was just a flip of the switch to just stop trying to be so perfect,” Brieske said. “It has been a battle to trust it. I’m putting in plenty of preparation and work between starts. I just need to go out and compete. I found myself thinking too much and trying to be perfect.
“I was erratic early, but I’m happy with how I settled down and found a nice rhythm.”
Brieske was one strike away from completing six full innings, posting a quality start and leaving with a 4-3 lead. He’d gotten the first two outs in the sixth on two strong defensive plays, one by Daz Cameron in right field and another by Spencer Torkelson at first.
After pitching coach Chris Fetter came out to give him a breather (he’d hustled over to cover first on the play by Torkelson), Brieske engaged in a seven-pitch battle against the Twins’ Gio Urshela. He got Urshela to swing and miss on a 2-1 change-up and then threw two straight fastballs. One was a ball and the other was fouled back.
“I had gotten into a really good rhythm with Tuck, trusting everything he was calling,” Brieske said of catcher Tucker Barnhart. “That last pitch, I overthought a little bit.”
Brieske was committed to the change-up. Barnhart was asking for another heater down and away. The pitcher almost always wins those debates. Brieske threw the change-up and Urshela mashed it.
“It wasn’t what Tucker called,” Brieske said. “I’m kicking myself for that. The only reason I threw it, I got a big swing-and-miss earlier in the count with it. He had fouled off a fastball prior to me throwing that pitch.
“I really thought (the change-up) was the right pitch. It wasn’t.”
That’s the difference between a solid start and a restless night of second-guessing and regret. Regardless, his ability to make the in-game adjustment and cover 17 outs was critical for the Tigers and the bullpen as they try to navigate a brutal stretch of games.
“Other than my last pitch, I was really happy with the outing,” Brieske said.
Rehab stint for Meadows
There was a time last week when it was fair to wonder if the Tigers would ever get outfielder Austin Meadows back in the lineup this season.
He’s been out since May 15 battling the effects of vertigo and manager AJ Hinch’s limited medical updates weren’t encouraging.
“He’s going to be out for a while,” he said repeatedly.
The report on Tuesday was far more encouraging. Hinch announced Meadows was cleared to begin a rehab assignment. He is expected to join Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday.
“He’s been symptom-free for a number of days now as he’s built up his strength and endurance,” Hinch said. “He’s going to need a few games to get back into the swing of things. But best case, he could join us sometime on this next trip.”
The Tigers play the Yankees three games this weekend and then go to Pittsburgh for two.
Around the horn
Relief pitcher Will Vest threw a scoreless 10-pitch inning for Toledo in his rehab outing Monday. Hinch said he expects Vest to be activated Wednesday. It will be a much-needed fresh arm for the bullpen. “He probably has the best chance to pitch on the day he’s activated of anybody that’s come off any injured list,” Hinch said, referencing the fact the Tigers played 21 innings of baseball in the last two days. Vest is coming back after being on COVID-IL.
…Tyler Alexander (elbow) reported no discomfort after he threw more than 50 pitches in three innings Monday in a rehab start for Toledo. Hinch said the plan is to stretch Alexander out beyond five innings in his next rehab start on Saturday. At that point, they will decide whether to activate him.
…Gary Jones won’t be coaching first base for at least the next four to six weeks. Hinch announced the line drive Jeimer Candelario hit off his leg Sunday fractured his ankle. He still will handle his other coaching duties (outfield positioning) from the dugout. Assistant hitting coach Mike Hessman will continue to coach first base.
… Outfielder Victor Reyes (quad) still hasn’t completed his running test.
Twins at Tigers
► First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 3.25), Twins: The Tigers managed only one run against him back on April 28, despite six hits and two walks in just 3.2 innings. His four-seam fastball (91-92 mph) has been hit consistently this season — .326 average, .543 slugging. His slider has not — .167 average, .194 slugging.
► LHP Tarik Skubal (3-2, 2.44), Tigers: The Twins gave Skubal his worst outing of the season back on April 28. They hit his four-seam and two-seam fastballs hard and produced six runs (five earned) and seven hits over five innings. Not having a feel for his off-speed that day was an issue.