Michael Pineda’s return solves only part of Tigers’ rotation concerns

Detroit News

Phoenix — Michael Pineda, the veteran right-hander who has been out since May 14 with a fractured finger on his pitching hand, is expected to make his second and last rehab start for Toledo on Sunday and, barring any setbacks, rejoin the Tigers during the homestand beginning July 1 against Kansas City.

All right, now what?

Because of three off days mixed in on this long, three-city trip, manager AJ Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter have been able to get by with four starting pitchers, allowing them to keep nine pitchers in the bullpen.

Remember, beginning last Monday, teams can carry no more than 13 pitchers on the active roster. And the four-nine split on the pitching staff won’t cut it for much longer.

The Tigers won’t be able to get through the first two-plus weeks of July with five starters, let alone four. Starting July 1, they will play 19 games in 17 days, including two doubleheaders going into the All-Star break.

And with Casey Mize out for the season after Tommy John surgery, Matt Manning slowly building back up after a shoulder injury, Joey Wentz still working back from neck and shoulder issues and Elvin Rodriguez in Toledo trying to get back in form, the rotation is still thin, even with Pineda coming back.

Getting a healthy Pineda back is a godsend in one sense. But it will force Hinch and Fetter to get creative. Hard decisions will have to be made and somebody in the bullpen, someone who has been performing well, might be getting his feelings hurt.

Good luck trying to pick a reliever to ship out. There are six with minor-league options left: closer Gregory Soto, Alex Lange, Joe Jimenez, Will Vest, Jason Foley and Tyler Alexander.

Tough call. And it could get tougher.

Right-hander Jose Cisnero (shoulder) is expected to resume his rehab stint with Toledo next week. If you’ve forgotten, Cisnero in 2020 and 2021 worked in 96 games and covered 91 innings for the Tigers, posting 96 strikeouts with four saves, 25 holds and allowed just eight of 43 inherited runners to score (18%).

If he can get healthy and right, he can provide a boost at a time fresh arms will be needed.

One thought was the Tigers could buy some time on the bullpen decision by optioning one of the starting pitchers, possibly Rony Garcia, who started against the Diamondbacks Friday and is scheduled to start in San Francisco on Wednesday.

The Tigers could conceivably option him out after the game in San Francisco and still use him as the 27th man in one of the two games of the doubleheader against the Guardians on July 4.

The problem with that, he wouldn’t be eligible to be recalled and put back into the rotation until July 14, or 15 days after he was optioned out.

It doesn’t have to be Garcia who is optioned out. Alex Faedo would be another candidate.

But doing that doesn’t solve the problem. Eventually, the Tigers are going to need a sixth and seventh starter to get through this stretch. Somehow they are going to need a few more starting pitchers.

Perhaps Drew Hutchison, for the fourth time in two seasons, re-signs with the club. Perhaps either Alexander or Wily Peralta get stretched out to start.

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

Tigers at Diamondbacks

First pitch: 10:10 p.m. Saturday, Chase Field, Phoenix

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

SCOUTING REPORT

RHP Alex Faedo (1-4, 4.67), Tigers: Important start for Faedo after taking a beating in his last two (11 earned runs, 17 hits in 7⅓ innings against the White Sox and Red Sox). An adjustment is in order because he’s been hit hard, even in his successful outings (90.7-mph exit velo). His four-seamer has been the major culprit, whether it’s been location or having to use it in hitter’s counts. Opponents are hitting .349 and slugging .628 with five homers against it.

RHP Zach Davies (2-4, 3.96), Diamondbacks: He doesn’t intimidate or overpower (doesn’t throw any pitch firmer than 89 mph), he just misses barrels. Throwing changeups and cutters off a two-seam sinker, he gets a lot of ground balls and weak contact (86-mph average exit velo, 31% hard-hit rate). He does struggle with command and when he’s off, he’s hittable.

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