As hot stove season begins, Tigers make another out-of-the-box move

Detroit News

Detroit — The offseason is officially upon us. It commenced Sunday with a pair of Tigers electing free agency — catcher Tucker Barnhart and left-handed pitcher Daniel Norris.

The Tigers also made a very intriguing hire. According to Omaha, Nebraska-based website D1baseball, University of Iowa pitching coach Robin Lund has left to be the Tigers assistant pitching coach under Chris Fetter.

Juan Nieves, who served as bullpen coach and assistant pitching coach the last two seasons, is also still on staff.

Lund’s background is unique, for sure. He has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and was a professor at Northern Iowa for 17 years, where he prepared students to become strength-and-conditioning coaches. He refers to himself as a scientist who happens to coach pitchers. His expertise in biomechanics, in how body movement relates to performance, is what Tigers president Scott Harris said he was looking for.

“We need to understand how our players are moving and how we can align those movement patterns with our hitting and pitching coaches,” he said. “If you have medical and strength-and-conditioning departments that have a strong relationship with your pitching and hitting departments, then all of a sudden we can work on movement patterns that are going to allow our guys to get a little more power out of their delivery and make a little more contact or reshape the bat path that allows them to perform better.

“That alignment can create more performance out of our players and I’m looking forward to finding leaders who can help us do that.”

That is what Lund brings. He helped pitchers at Iowa increase velocity, reshape their secondary pitches and post double-digit strikeouts-per-nine rates the last two seasons. Five of his pitchers were drafted in the last two seasons including Adam Mazur (second round) and Dylan Nedved (ninth round) by the Padres last July.

Lund’s expertise in anatomy, kinesiology and research could also potentially help stem the tide of pitcher injuries the Tigers have endured the past couple of seasons.

The Tigers at the end of the season parted ways with hitting coaches Scott Coolbaugh and Mike Hessman. They also reassigned infield coach and third base coach Ramon Santiago and didn’t renew the contract of quality control coach Josh Paul.

The club has yet to hire hitting coaches, but Lund’s background might serve as a template for what the club is looking for.

Hot stove stuff

Harris and his staff will be in Las Vegas this week for the league’s general managers meetings. He is expected, for the first time since he was hired in September, to address the roster both for 2023 and going forward.

Until then, it’s impossible to speculate with any intelligence what the Tigers might do this offseason. Besides possibly center field, shortstop and second base, there aren’t many set pieces returning from the 96-loss 2022 team.

“We’re going to make a lot of moves, and a lot of those moves are going to have strong conviction and confidence behind them,” Harris said at his introductory press conference in September. “Some of those moves are going to be calculated risks. We have to take calculated risks to narrow the gap between this organization and the other organizations we’re chasing right now. We can’t be risk-averse. Taking calculated risks as part of a broader strategy of roster building and organization building will pay off in the end, and that’s how we’re looking at it.

“We’re going to put our heads down this winter and we’re going to make as many baseball decisions as we can. And then we will look to see where we’re at by the end of the winter.”

By Thursday, the Tigers will need to reinstate the 10 players presently on the injured list back on the 40-man roster, which will necessitate at least seven players being waived off the roster.

By Nov. 15, the Tigers will potentially have to add prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Those prospects include infielder Ryan Kreidler, pitchers Reese Olson, Austin Bergner, and Sawyer Gipson-Long, infielder Wenceel Perez and outfielder Parker Meadows.

That will necessitate more roster pruning.

By Nov. 18, they will have to decide whether to tender contracts to a long list of arbitration-eligible players — pitchers Joe Jimenez, Jose Cisnero, Gregory Soto, Tyler Alexander, Rony Garcia and Kyle Funkhouser, infielders Jeimer Candelario and Harold Castro, and outfielders Victor Reyes, Austin Meadows and Willi Castro.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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