There is no such thing as a holiday — a pitching holiday, free from disruption — at Triple-A Toledo.
And that works not only for the Tigers, but in a counter-intuitive way, for Mud Hens manager Lloyd McClendon.
It just means his bullpen, his largely unflappable bullpen, will probably get extra work.
Take that latest news-jolt from the Mud Hens clubhouse: Garrett Hill, yet another of Toledo’s alleged starting pitchers, has been summoned to start a Monday game for the Tigers at Comerica Park.
It’s like this all the time for McClendon: Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, Rony Garcia, Wily Peralta, Elvin Rodriguez, Drew Hutchison, Joey Wentz — McClendon has the concession stand for starting pitchers in Detroit.
Factor in the occasional Mud Hens hitter (Victor Reyes, Kody Clemens, Daz Cameron, Derek Hill, etc.) who likewise might check into manager AJ Hinch’s lineup, and the surprise Sunday is that the Mud Hens were 40-35 heading into a game against Louisville at Fifth Third Field.
“It’s because of our bullpen,” McClendon said during a Friday phone chat. “We get a lead, we don’t give it up. I feel pretty good going into the seventh inning — or even the sixth.”
For these reasons:
Derek Law, right-hander, 31, a free agent who signed a minor-league deal with the Tigers this spring after spending past time with the Twins, Rangers, Jays, Giants, etc. Law is Toledo’s closer: 26 games, 2.90 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 15 saves, 36 strikeouts in 31 innings.
“He’s nasty,” McClendon said. “He’s 95, 96 — slider, cutter, split. He’s got good stuff. And he’s pitched in the big leagues (176 games). He knows what’s he’s doing.”
Another lethal weapon has been Luis Castillo, 27, also a right-hander, who was in the Braves’ hatchery before he signed this spring, also as a minor-league free agent. Castillo has a 1.63 ERA and equally shiny 1.08 WHIP in 25 games, with 27 strikeouts in 27.2 innings.
“Wow,” McClendon said. “The other day (Tuesday, against Louisville, three batters, three strikeouts) was probably the most impressive inning I’ve seen from anyone all year: 95, 96, real good slider, change-up. The opposition had no chance. Just explosive stuff. And he’s got the funky release to go with it.”
Bryan Garcia, who has had past shifts with the Tigers, is aiming at a return, thanks to 26 games that have featured a 2.15 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.
Add in Ricardo Pinto, Logan Shore, and others committed to saving the Mud Hens’ skins in 2022, and it’s no wonder McClendon says he’s rarely, if ever, had more fun managing a baseball team.
We’ll see how long the serenity lasts.
The Tigers are plunging into a month when trades are made as contenders and non-contenders begin looking toward 2023.
The Tigers’ great strength, like Toledo’s, happens to be relief pitchers.
If it happens that a Michael Fulmer, or a Gregory Soto, is spun off to a playoff-bound club, McClendon is sure to lose one of his Mud Hens handymen.
“We’ve got options, real good options, in Law, Castillo, Pinto and the others,” McClendon said. “These guys have been dynamite — really, really good.
“And in my opinion, they’re all big-league arms.”
Law and Castillo are first- and second-chairs there, probably. McClendon can’t say enough about either, even mentioning that the only two real nicks Law has sustained recently came in a game at Columbus, when a couple of casual fly balls caught a brisk breeze and sailed over the fence.
“It’s so short in right field there,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, this guy just needs an opportunity. He’s good. I’ve been very pleased with him.”
McClendon never knows how long the trustworthy guys will be around. That’s life on the farm, for any manager. You try and develop talent, knowing — and even hoping — players will progress and head for a bigger adventure at that next level, which for the Tigers is Detroit.
This is a season when all-hands-on-deck is a mantra altered slightly:
All arms on deck is more the battle cry at Comerica Park. McClendon knows it’s his job to provide reinforcements, a task he has been taking to, deftly.
Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and retired Detroit News sports reporter.