Alexander’s return to bullpen means Brieske, Faedo get extended stay in Tigers’ rotation

Detroit News

New York — A couple of weeks ago, the thought was lefty Tyler Alexander would rejoin the Tigers’ rotation when he came off the injured list. But AJ Hinch exercised his managerial right to change his mind on that.

Before the game Saturday, hours before Alexander was scheduled to make his second rehab appearance for Triple-A Toledo, Hinch explained his rationale. Rookie right-hander Beau Brieske was part of the decision, as is the imminent return of lefthanded starter Eduardo Rodriguez.

“Certainly we have confidence in Beau and we want to make sure we continue to provide opportunity for our young pitchers to grow,” he said. “Also, we want to put Tyler in a position to be successful.”

After an impressive spring training, Alexander never quite got on track in his four starts before going on the IL. He allowed 12 earned runs and a most uncharacteristic five walks in 12 innings. He was pitching through an elbow sprain and that certainly contributed to his performance.

But Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter always have been on the fence about which role was best for Alexander and the team — starter or bulk reliever.

“The beginning of the season didn’t go well for Tyler,” Hinch said. “Combine that with some of the things we see that we like from our young pitchers, it created a decision we had to make. It gives Tyler the best opportunity to come back and our young pitchers have the opportunity to get the ball every five days.

“Some of it is tied together with that and some of it is also Eduardo, who we feel is coming back soon.”

Rodriguez, who is out with a ribcage sprain, threw a bullpen here Friday and threw on flat ground Saturday. Hinch said the plan was for Rodriguez to throw off the mound again Sunday and if there are no issues, then he would be cleared to begin a rehab assignment with Toledo.

Asked if Rodriguez would need at least a couple of rehab starts, Hinch said, “Let’s start with one and see what happens. What we want is to get the one and have a good report.”

When Rodriguez gets back, most likely he would take Rony Garcia’s spot.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (broken finger) also is working his way back off the injured list. He was scheduled to throw a bullpen in Lakeland on Saturday, but Hinch said he was still a couple of weeks away.

“He’s still having a hard time gripping and throwing the slider,” Hinch said. “We want him to continue to throw. He’s pain-free on his fastball and change-up. We want to keep his shoulder and his body moving like a pitcher so once he can start to spin it, he can get right into facing hitters.”

Pineda likely would take rookie Elvin Rodriguez’s spot in the rotation. That would leave the Tigers with a rotation of Tarik Skubal, Rodriguez, Pineda and rookies Brieske and Alex Faedo.

Matt Manning (shoulder, biceps) is scheduled to meet with a specialist in Dallas on Monday. Casey Mize (elbow) is throwing off flat ground. Neither are expected to be back this month.

Bullpen changes?

The bullpen has been a consistent strength all year and it could be getting stronger.

Veteran right-hander Jose Cisnero (shoulder) was scheduled to throw to hitters in Lakeland on Saturday, which could lead to the start of a rehab assignment for him. That would put him about a week away from being an option for the Tigers.

Adding Cisnero and Alexander, two seasoned, fresh-armed pitchers, to the bullpen would be a boost. And it also will create some difficult decisions for the club. Try picking two relievers to send out from this list: Gregory Soto, Alex Lange, Michael Fulmer, Andrew Chafin, Joe Jimenez, Jason Foley, Wily Peralta, Will Vest and Jacob Barnes.

And on June 20, when Major League Baseball mandates carrying a maximum of 13 pitchers, the Tigers will have to trim another reliever.

Around the horn

This wasn’t a great trip for Elvin Rodriguez. Not only did he take a beating from the Yankees on Friday night, giving up four home runs (10 runs total) in 4.1 innings, but on Saturday he had to have an emergency dental procedure.

… The last Tigers pitcher to give up 10 runs in the game, hard to believe, was Max Scherzer in 2014. Maybe Rodriguez can take a small measure of solace in that.

… The Yankees activated slugger Giancarlo Stanton off the injured list before the game Saturday. He’d been out with an ankle injury.

… A reminder, first pitch for the finale between the Tigers and Yankees Sunday is 11:35 a.m. and will be broadcast exclusively on Peacock.

Tigers at Yankees

First pitch: 11:35 a.m. Sunday, Yankee Stadium, New York

TV/radio: Peacock/97.1 FM

Scouting report

RHP Rony Garcia (0-1, 4.70), Tigers: This will be his third start and he’s coming off a clunker against the Twins (six runs in five innings). But there have been encouraging signs. He has a 32% strikeout rate, which is in the top 8 percentile in baseball. His curveball has been a plus pitch, too. Hitters are 4 or 27 against it, swinging and missing 43% of the time.

LHP Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 3.04), Yankees: He’s allowed three runs or less in all 10 of his starts and he has a 41-9 strikeout-walk total in 53.1 innings. Off a 92-mph sinker, he gets a 36% whiff rate off his change-up and a 47% whiff rate off his curve ball. He doesn’t overpower hitters. He just gets them out consistently.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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