Inside a wild morning for Detroit Tigers RP Will Vest; Austin Meadows update

Detroit Free Press

Right-handed reliever Will Vest arrived in Omaha, Nebraska, around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, ready to join Triple-A Toledo. Once the plane landed, he reconnected to his cellular network and a few text messages appeared.

The Detroit Tigers needed Vest at Comerica Park.

“When we called him, he was still on the plane,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We couldn’t divert the entire Delta plane, but we did divert him and got him back. He learned the hotels in the big leagues are better.”

It’s been a busy 24 hours.

“It’s like I had a day off,” Vest said. “That’s how I’m viewing it.”

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Vest, 27, got a few hours of sleep at a Best Western hotel near the airport and woke up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday for his flight back to Detroit. The Tigers optioned Vest to Toledo on Tuesday morning, but he didn’t even pitch in a game for the Mud Hens.

The Tigers recalled Vest because right-handed reliever Wily Peralta landed on the 15-day injured list with a left hamstring strain. The 33-year-old exited Tuesday’s relief appearance with the injury.

There’s no timetable for his return.

“You never want it to be because of an injury,” Vest said. “I hope Wily is doing fine, but it’s kind of what’s been going on, like the team of this year for us. It’s just a part of it. Next man up.”

Vest has a 3.41 ERA with 11 walks and 32 strikeouts across 29 innings in 26 outings.

The Tigers demoted him to Toledo on Tuesday to create space for right-hander Drew Hutchison to join the active roster ahead of the latter’s start Tuesdayin the big leagues.

Vest posted a 6.52 ERA with six walks and seven strikeouts over 10 appearances in June. He allowed two runs June 17 against the Texas Rangers and five runs June 26 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I’ve started to walk a little bit more than I would like,” Vest said, “but being able to throw my off-speed in the strike zone, and then expand with two strikes, was key for me. I lost throwing the slider in the zone there for a minute. But I think the biggest thing is getting ahead as quickly as possible.”

Austin Meadows begins rehab assignment

Seated next to Vest on the Delta plane was outfielder Austin Meadows, reporting to Triple-A Toledo to begin his rehab assignment.

Meadows passed physical tests Tuesday at Comerica Park in his return from strains in his right and left Achilles tendons. He will be in Wednesday’s lineup for the Mud Hens against the Omaha Storm Chasers.

The 27-year-old is expected to join the Tigers at some point in the upcoming road trip: Chicago White Sox (July 7-10), Kansas City Royals (July 11-13) and Cleveland Guardians (July 14-17).

“In a perfect world, it would be sometime in Kansas City,” Hinch said, “but we need him to be healthy, we need him to be good with timing and physical readiness. Hopefully, he faces a lefty and a righty.”

Mercy rule?

In Tuesday’s 11-4 win over the Guardians, Hinch sent position player Harold Castro to the mound as the pitcher for the ninth inning. It marked the first time Hinch has pitched a position player in a win during his managerial career.

“I think you’re going to see a little more of this,” Hinch said.

Since MLB teams have a 13-pitcher limit on the 26-man roster, teams — like the Tigers on Tuesday — have used position players in blowout wins to save bullpen arms.

On June 15, the Tigers pitched three position players in a 13-0 loss to the White Sox: Castro, Kody Clemens and Tucker Barnhart.

Castro has a 3.18 ERA with four walks and one strikeout in six career appearances, including three outings in 2022. In Tuesday’s game, the Guardians used backup catcher Sandy Leon in the eighth and ninth innings.

All these position players pitching, examples which creates uncompetitive baseball at the game’s highest level, brings up an interesting question: Would Hinch be in favor of a mercy rule?

“I think we should look at what the fans want with what the product looks like,” Hinch said. “The more the position players pitch, the more there’s going to be an outcry for some sort of legislation, whether they have to make the runs a 10-run difference, an 11-run difference, a 12-run difference.

“I don’t know how to really legislate that, but we’re all trying to do our best to make sure we have enough pitching on a day-to-day basis. … But I do think the game’s integrity should be at nine innings, so it would be hard to have the mercy rule.

“What if that’s the one game that a fan paid for to come see, and he or she wanted to stay start to finish? We should probably play nine innings.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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