Detroit — What teams around baseball knew would happen is happening.
Starting Monday, as Major League Baseball informed clubs on Friday, teams will be required to carry 13 pitchers and 13 position players for the remainder of the season. The league twice extended the deadline and allowed teams to carry an extra reliever.
The Tigers have been carrying 14 pitchers and 12 position players. Barring any setback, third baseman Jeimer Candelario is expected to be activated off the injured list Monday. That means one pitcher will have to be dropped.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a reliever, though. At least not initially. Manager AJ Hinch said before the game Friday he will deploy a four-man rotation during the three-city road trip next week through Boston, Arizona and San Francisco.
“It’s going to be a challenge for every team when we go to this configuration,” Hinch said. “When we need a five-man rotation again, we will make accommodations.”
There are three off days on the schedule, which would theoretically make a fifth starter unnecessary until early July. So, they could send one current starter out — possibly Rony Garcia or Drew Hutchison — and use the other in the bullpen.
That would buy them some time and keep the current bullpen intact. Come July, though, especially if veteran right-hander Michael Pineda is ready to rejoin the rotation as expected, some tough decisions will have to be made.
There are long-term implications with this, too, especially for the Tigers, who presently feature at least two starters who will face innings restrictions at some point this season — rookies Beau Brieske and Alex Faedo.
With an eight-man bullpen, starting pitchers will be pressed to work deeper into games. And working deeper into games runs counter to trying to ration innings so that pitchers can stay in the rotation all through the season.
We hardly knew ya
It hasn’t really been that long since lefty Matt Moore pitched for the Tigers. He just didn’t pitch for the Tigers that long.
“You know what, just because I’ve had a couple of surgeries since then, it does feel a little longer,” said Moore, who has made himself a valuable piece in the Rangers’ bullpen. “It was 2019, so not that long ago. But that was a long season for me and for the club.”
That it was. The Tigers signed Moore for one year and $2.5 million and hoped he could be a veteran anchor in an otherwise young starting rotation. Moore never gave up a single run as a Tiger. But he only made two starts and covered 10 innings before his knee gave out.
“My time here was so brief, I mean the longest part of the season was waiting for my knee to heal and watching the Tigers play on TV from Arizona,” he said.
It was with the Tigers, though, that he became a father. His son was born during spring training that year.
“Yeah, that was a silver lining for sure, getting to hold him that much when he was still small,” he said.
After he had his meniscus removed, Moore went to Japan and helped Fukuoka SoftBank win the Japan Series. He spent last season with the Phillies and came into play Friday 3-0 with a 2.54 ERA for the Rangers.
“It’s been a pretty good ride,” he said.
Turn the page
Tigers closer Gregory Soto admitted that his issues with the mound (there was a hole on the side of the rubber) and taking a comebacker off the back of his leg played with his mind Thursday night. But he said there were no excuses.
“It bothered my mind, but nothing else,” said Soto through Tigers bilingual interpreter Carlos Guillen.
Soto gave up a two-out, three-run triple to the Rangers’ Ezequiel Duran in the ninth inning, his second blown save of the season. It was the only hit he allowed. He loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman.
“It’s just a matter of turning the page,” Soto said. “I threw 33 pitches, so I am down tonight. But tomorrow, I’ll be ready. It’s the same when I have a good outing. Just turn the page. I have to go on.”
Soto said he’s been grinding to get the feel back on his slider, a pitch that betrayed him Thursday night.
“I’m not throwing it where I want to,” he said. “I’m not getting it down, not putting it in the dirt when I need to. I haven’t been able to locate it where I want, whether I want to throw it in the zone or just a little bit outside the zone.”
Around the horn
… Speaking of Pineda, he threw a two-inning simulated game Friday, throwing live to Eric Haase and Kody Clemens. If there were no issues, he could be sent on a rehab assignment next week, presumably to Toledo.
Rangers at Tigers
First pitch: 4:10 p.m., Comerica Park
TV/Radio: BSD, FS1/97.1.
LHP Taylor Hearn (4-4, 5.37), Rangers: For as imposing as he may look on the mound (6-foot-6, 230 pounds), he’s not fooling many hitters. Opponents are hitting .288 with an .830 OPS, balls leaving bats with an average exit velocity of 92 mph. He will walk you if you let him, too (11% walk rate). His best pitch is his elevated four-seamer (94 mph). He also throws a slider, sinker, changeup and occasional cutter.
RHP Rony Garcia (0-2, 5.06), Tigers: The .218 opponent batting average and .694 OPS belie how hard he’s been hit, especially in his recent outings. The average exit velocity on balls put in play against him is a firm 93.6 mph and his hard-hit rate is 59% — that’s in the bottom 1 percentile in baseball. Yet, to complete the paradox, he’s averaging 10 strikeouts per nine innings.