Michael Pineda misses bonus, ineligible for playoffs after Detroit Tigers cut him

Detroit Free Press

A group of players gathered around Michael Pineda‘s locker in the clubhouse to say goodbye.

After Sunday’s 3-2 loss, Pineda — a nine-year MLB veteran with 180 starts and more than 1,000 innings of experience — was designated for assignment (removed from the 40-man roster), as the Detroit Tigers continue to showcase and evaluate younger players in preparation for the 2023 season.

“I hate it for Michael,” manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday. “Nothing worse than telling a veteran of his magnitude and his career that we’re moving on from him. But for us, it’s time to take a look at the guys who have a better chance of being here.”

Left-hander Joey Wentz, a 24-year-old in Triple-A Toledo, could be the primary beneficiary of Pineda’s departure, along with right-hander Elvin Rodriguez. Most importantly, though, the Tigers want righty Matt Manning and lefty Eduardo Rodriguez pitching on regular rest and accumulating as many innings as possible down the stretch.

Right-handed reliever Luis Castillo took Pineda’s place on the 26-man roster.

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Pineda, 33, finished with a 5.79 ERA, eight walks and 26 strikeouts over 46⅔ innings in 11 starts this season. The Tigers, operating under former general manager Al Avila, signed Pineda to a one-year, $5.5 million contract in March.

He ended up 3⅓ innings shy of a $375,000 bonus for 50 innings pitched. He had other incentives, too: $375,000 for 75 innings, $375,000 for 100 innings, $375,000 for 125 innings, $500,000 for 150 innings and $500,000 for 175 innings.

“I understand the decision,” Pineda said. “I understand everything. But it’s September right now, and I didn’t think they were going to do that to me. If they wanted to do that, I think they’d want to do it earlier. But I respect the decision, and I understand.”

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Pineda will not pitch in the postseason due to the timing of the Tigers’ decision.

Any player on a team’s 40-man roster on Sept. 1 is eligible for the postseason, meaning Pineda is automatically ineligible for the playoffs if another team claims him off waivers. If he clears waivers, he can reject an assignment to Triple-A Toledo and become a free agent.

“I was very excited to come to the Tigers and give my experience here,” Pineda said. “I understand the situation. A couple injuries that I’ve had this year, and I’m not pitching like I used to be pitching. That’s baseball.”

Pineda, who has a career 4.06 ERA, suffered two injuries with the Tigers. He landed on the injured list for a fractured right middle finger May 15 and didn’t return until July 1. On July 24, he went to the injured list again with right triceps tightness and didn’t come back until Sept. 1.

Recovering from the broken finger, Pineda struggled to regain the feel for his slider and essentially became a two-pitch starter with his fastball and changeup.

He pitched one game in his return from the injured list, allowing five runs on six hits and two walks over four innings Saturday against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Before his second stint on the injured list, he gave up eight runs over two innings July 16 and two runs over three innings July 23.

“When I signed with the Tigers, I was very healthy,” Pineda said. “I did my spring training in Triple-A, and when I came here, I broke my finger. I tried to do everything I could to pitch, but it’s not easy because I broke my middle finger. I’m feeling really good right now, and I feel healthy, but I understand.”

The Tigers have promoted several rookie position players to the big leagues: Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, Ryan Kreidler, Kerry Carpenter and Josh Lester. Kreidler, who can play second base, shortstop and third base, has cut into Jeimer Candelario’s playing time at third base.

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So far, Kreidler has been an upgrade offensively and defensively.

Although Candelario could stick around through the end of the season, the Tigers seem likely to non-tender him — making him a free agent — in his final year of salary arbitration eligibility this offseason.

On the pitching side, the Tigers have three starters locked in to face the Los Angeles Angels in a three-game series: Tyler Alexander on Monday, Eduardo Rodriguez on Tuesday and Drew Hutchison on Wednesday.

“Then we’ll have the off day (Thursday),” Hinch said. “We might have a chance to reset if we want to do something different. We’re trying to work backwards from the end of the season on with some off days.

“We’ve had both versions, where we’re going to stay in a five-man (rotation), we’ve had a four-man, we’ve talked about six. All scenarios are still in playing. We’re still focusing on Manning and Eduardo, those are the two we really want their innings to be continuous if we can. … Mapping out their end of the seasons is probably the most priority in the rotation.”

Wentz has a 3.17 ERA with 20 walks and 53 strikeouts over 48⅓ innings in Triple-A Toledo. He returned to the Mud Hens on Aug. 10, after recovering from a shoulder injury. He has a 0.96 ERA with seven walks and 16 strikeouts in 18⅔ innings over four games since then.

He allowed six runs over 6⅔ innings in two starts for the Tigers.

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