Drew Hutchison carries the load for Detroit Tigers going into final start of 2022

Detroit Free Press

If the Detroit Tigers had a “most reliable starter” award, catcher Eric Haase would vote for right-hander Drew Hutchison, a 32-year-old veteran who has been designated for assignment twice this season.

Hutchison, an Opening Day starter for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, also ranks second on the team this season with 17 starts. The leader, Tarik Skubal, completed 21 starts before undergoing left flexor tendon surgery. Casey Mize, another young pitcher, only made two starts before Tommy John surgery destroyed his campaign. Matt Manning worked through 12 starts but is done for the season with a right forearm strain.

Those situations, among many other ailments, opened the door for Hutchison to receive opportunities. He’ll wrap up his 2022 season with Saturday’s start against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park.

“I expect that of myself, to be honest with you,” Hutchison said of his durability and workload. “I believe I can make 30, 32 starts and throw a lot of innings. I’m not surprised by anything I’ve done. I think that’s what I’m capable of. You always hope you get an opportunity to start, but I never knew if I would get one. I was in the bullpen earlier in the year.”

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Injuries have forced the Tigers to employ a franchise record-tying 17 starting pitchers this season. Another example of the Tigers’ rotation woes: Skubal, who will finish as the Tigers’ leader in innings (117⅔), is their lone 20-game starter. The American League Central-winning Cleveland Guardians, meanwhile — as long as Triston McKenzie starts on schedule Monday — feature three pitchers with at least 30 starts.

“He’s been our most reliable starter,” Haase said of Hutchison. “He takes the ball every fifth day, knows he’s going to go five or six innings and give us a chance to win. That was so huge this year. …

“Him and Todd (Tyler Alexander) have been our two most reliable guys. They’re taking the ball every fifth day. They both worked out of the bullpen (earlier in the season). They both kinda got the shaft on all sides of the thing, and they take the ball every time A.J. (Hinch) needs them to. It’s fun to compete with those guys.”

Hutchison’s 4.54 ERA isn’t flashy, but he has been steady in a season when the Tigers fell well short of their preseason expectations. He has 40 walks and 63 strikeouts across 101 innings (85⅓ as a starter) in 27 games (17 starts).

The last time Hutchison started more than five games in a season was 2015 with the Blue Jays. (That year, he logged 28 starts.)

“This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to make starts in a row like this,” Hutchison said. “I didn’t necessarily see it coming, but I was very thankful and glad I got that opportunity. When you get those opportunities, you got to try to make them count. I think I’ve done a good job of that.”

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Hutchison’s performance has lived on the edge all year. He walks too many and gives up too many hits, resulting in a 1.455 WHIP. Strikeouts aren’t his strong suit; dominating the strike zone can be a challenge.

But Hutchison often limits the damage and keeps the Tigers within striking distance.

“He’s evolved as a pitcher from when he first broke in 10 years ago until now,” Hinch said. “I think he’s had to learn how to pitch a little differently. As we’ve gone through all the injuries, he’s been a pretty good constant. He left the organization a time or two and came back to us. It’s been a very good relationship.”

Welcome to the majors, Brendon Davis

Before Friday’s game, the Tigers placed utility player Willi Castro on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain. He suffered the injury between first and second base on a double in Thursday’s 10-3 win.

To replace him, Brendon Davis — expected to play mostly third base and some right field — received his first promotion to the big leagues. His MLB debut is scheduled for Saturday’s matchup with Minnesota Twins right-hander Dylan Bundy.

“It came out of the blue,” Davis said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I was at home in Phoenix. I’ve done some flying the last couple days. … It’s a great opportunity. It’s an opportunity I’ve been working for my whole life. I feel like I’m ready.”

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The Tigers claimed Davis off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on May 20. In 103 games for Triple-A Toledo, the 25-year-old hit .232 with 14 home runs, 55 walks and 104 strikeouts. He had a .751 OPS and 101 wRC+, which means he graded out as a league-average player in the International League.

In 2020-21, Davis launched 50 home runs with 24 stolen bases across 263 games in the Angels’ and Tigers’ organizations.

Davis was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015’s fifth round (No. 162 overall, two picks after the Tigers selected MSU’s Cam Gibson). He was traded with two other players to the Texas Rangers in July 2017 in exchange for starting pitcher Yu Darvish. In December 2020, the Angels added Davis in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft.

“I didn’t know that I was put on waivers (by the Angels in May 2021),” Davis said. “It’s not like I had any idea. I played that night, unaware, and the next morning, I got a call from my manager. I honestly thought I was going up to the big leagues. He told me I got claimed by the Tigers.”

Fast forward to Thursday, when Davis received a phone call from Tigers vice president of player development Ryan Garko.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Davis said. “So much joy.”

Second opinion for Manning

Right-hander Matt Manning (right forearm strain) is leaving the Tigers on Saturday. He is scheduled to travel to Sacramento, California, before seeking a second opinion for his injury in Dallas.

“I’m not worried about it,” Manning said. “I think I would know if it was really, really serious. Right now, I’m just checking the boxes.”

Manning, 24, finished with a 3.43 ERA with 19 walks and 48 strikeouts over 63 innings in 12 starts. He started two games in April, spent nearly four months on the injured list and returned in early August for 10 starts through Sept. 21.

“It’s a minor injury, but it’s an injury,” Hinch said. “We have to run the gauntlet of tests and make sure he can start his offseason program when he’s supposed to and be cleared all the way to spring. … You always hold your breath a little bit when you get into examining things where he’s feeling something, but it’s not bad. It’s always alarming when you have to shut somebody down.”

Headed to Seattle

The Tigers need two starting pitchers over the final four games of the season next week in Seattle. Right-handers Bryan Garcia and Elvin Rodriguez will join the Tigers on their trip to T-Mobile Park.

Garcia is likely to start Monday against the Mariners, who entered Friday with a magic number of 1 to clinch their first playoff berth since 2001, while Rodriguez is expected to appear at some point in Tuesday’s doubleheader. Eduardo Rodriguez is lined up to start one of the games Tuesday, with Tyler Alexander seemingly set for Wednesday’s season finale.

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