New delivery gives Detroit Tigers rookie pitcher Garrett Hill velocity boost

Detroit Free Press

Every once in a while, Detroit Tigers right-hander Garrett Hill takes a look at the scoreboard to check his velocity. He thinks examining the speed of every fastball appears disrespectful, so he refuses to create a habit out of the quick glances.

In Monday’s relief appearance, the 26-year-old — sporting a new, over-the-head delivery out of the windup — couldn’t help but admire his velocity. His first two pitches, both sinkers, registered at 94.4 mph and 94.5 mph.

“The first couple pitches, I’m like, ‘Really?'” said Hill, who entered Monday with an average fastball velocity of 91.4 mph. “One caught my eye, so I looked a couple more times after to see if that was just a one-time thing. And I was able to maintain the velo.”

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Hill threw 23 pitches in Monday’s 7-0 loss to the Houston Astros at Comerica Park, working a pair of scoreless innings. He tossed 12 four-seam fastballs that averaged 94.6 mph and topped out at 96.6 mph, as well as three sinkers that averaged 94.9 mph.

Pitching out of the bullpen, which surely boosts Hill’s velocity, has been a success over the past three weeks, spanning four outings. He has allowed two runs over nine innings, both Sept. 5 against the Los Angeles Angels, with five walks and nine strikeouts.

“It’s partly the extra rest,” Hill said.

But the main reason for the velocity increase is a fresh delivery inspired by minor-league director of pitching Gabe Ribas, who has been with the Tigers for the past two series, pitching coach Chris Fetter and assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves.

On Sept. 5, Hill kept his hands near his belt before his separating the ball from his glove and entering his throwing motion. Now, he is bringing his hands over his head when pitching out of the windup.

“It’ll create good habits of when your body is supposed to be in sync,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “That’s where guys like to go in the windup. They like to create that rhythm, momentum and feel. In the stretch, their body will naturally take over and separate at the right time.”

Hill experimented the new delivery for the first time Sunday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. His entire body felt in sync as he focused on using his back leg to generate power on his way toward home plate.

“I threw five pitches on the mound,” Hill said, “and it felt really good, like everything was timed up. My front side wasn’t going early, which I’ve been combating for the last month or so. I wasn’t falling off to one side or anything. I didn’t expect a velo jump, but it just cleaned everything up.”

The next day, Hill implemented what he learned against the Astros. His sixth pitch was his fastest pitch, a 96.6 mph four-seamer to Yordan Alvarez, but the Alvarez plate appearance ended in an eight-pitch walk. He was the only player to reach base against Hill in the seventh and eighth innings.

“The goal wasn’t necessarily velocity as much as it was to create a little bit of rhythm in his hands,” Hinch said. “He had a hard time separating, which creates some drag and bad execution. … I think the velo comes from a pretty different job description of two or three innings every five or seven days.”

Hill, a 26th round pick in 2018, has a 3.83 ERA with 23 walks and 30 strikeouts in 51⅔ innings over 12 games (eight starts) this season.

“I don’t need as long of a routine,” Hill said of what he’s learned since switching to the bullpen. “I would be getting ready like two hours before my start and getting my body loose. Now, you get the call and have 10 minutes to get ready. … I’m focusing on what I really need to do.”

Friendly wager

Before Tuesday’s game, second baseman Jace Jung, the 2022 No. 12 overall pick from Texas Tech, toured Comerica Park, hung out with Hall of Famer Alan Trammell and took batting practice. The 21-year-old met with Hinch in his office and even shared a friendly wager with 2020 No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson.

Torkelson gave Jung five swings to hit a home run into the shrubs in center field. On the final swing, Jung accomplished the task and received $100 from Torkelson.

“I was a little nervous,” said Jung. “Four swings went by, and I go, ‘Damn, I just missed on the swing before.’ And then somehow, the next one, I put a good swing on it and it went there. I was like, ‘Oh, let’s go.'”

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After batting practice, Jung met with Hinch in his office.

The next time that happens, Hinch said he expects to congratulate him on his promotion to the big leagues. They spent a few minutes together and talked about Jung’s performance in High-A West Michigan — a .706 OPS with 25 walks and 28 strikeouts in 30 games — and his future in the Tigers’ organization.

“In that meeting, A.J. talked about the 2017 Astros,” Jung said. “They played defense. They hit. They did base running. They did everything well, and they won the World Series. He was going on about that like, ‘We don’t want you to be just a hitter. We want to make sure your whole game is there when you get here.'”

On Sept. 9, the Texas Rangers called Josh Jung, an older brother, to the majors for his debut. The 24-year-old has crushed two home runs, but also has zero walks and 11 strikeouts, in five games.

Watching his brother and visiting Comerica Park provided inspiration as Jung’s first year of professional baseball concludes.

“When you get here, you want to be here,” Jung said. “You don’t want to be in West Michigan. You want to be right here in Detroit, that’s for sure. … Just hitting on the field, I’m this close to making my dream come true, playing on the big-league stage like my brother. I’m so close.”

Around the farm

The Tigers completed a pair of noteworthy transactions Tuesday, promoting catcher Josh Crouch and infielder Danny Serretti to Double-A Erie. SeaWolves catcher Dillon Dingler, a top prospect, is on the injured list.

Serretti, drafted by the Tigers in the sixth round this year, has played 21 games in his professional career: 11 for Low-A Lakeland and 10 for High-A West Michigan. The 22-year-old switch-hitter has a .329 batting average with two home runs, 20 walks and 17 strikeouts.

Crouch, 23, was picked by the Tigers in the 11th round of the 2021 draft. For the Whitecaps this season, he hit .290 with 10 homers, 38 walks and 56 strikeouts across 90 games. He played 11 games in Lakeland, too.

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Designated hitter Miguel Cabrera (left biceps strain) swung his bat off the tee for the first time Monday. The 39-year-old was scheduled for additional tee work Tuesday and does not seem close to returning to the Tigers’ lineup.

“He felt fine,” Hinch said. “I think he’s off the tee again. The reports have been good, but the progress has been slow.”

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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