Detroit Tigers’ Brendan White throws strikes, adds new pitch: ‘Execution is everything’

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Brendan White is the latest underrated Detroit Tigers pitcher to know.

The 24-year-old, a 26th-round selection in the 2019 draft from Siena College, didn’t crack any top prospect lists this offseason, but if a new pitch in his arsenal clicks, he could emerge as an impact reliever for the Tigers this season.

White was pick No. 772 in the draft, 30 spots ahead of fellow Tiger Beau Brieske.

The right-hander transitioned from starting to relief in last year’s spring training, then dominated out of the bullpen in Double-A Erie. In November, the Tigers added him to the 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 draft.

“We’re pretty stingy with how we hand out our 40-man spots,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “But he probably would have been gone the fastest, so we protected him. He’s an option for us, more likely in-season than now, but he earned his right to get a look.”

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White is expected to start the 2023 season in Triple-A Toledo, and if he produces there, the Tigers could jump at the opportunity to promote him for his MLB debut.

They view him as part of the almost-immediate future.

In 2022, White posted a 2.67 ERA with 17 walks and 73 strikeouts over 67⅓ innings in 48 outings for the Seawolves. He finished 21 of those games and racked up nine saves. Although White always understood his capabilities, his work ethic and advanced understanding of analytics were validated as he put himself on the map.

His style as a pitcher is built on consistency.

“Honestly, it’s the same thing it’s always been,” White said, “where execution is everything. It’s about going out there, knowing what my strengths are, executing pitches and putting up zeros.”

The Tigers believe in White because his fastball has natural cut and generates whiffs at the top of the strike zone, and he throws strikes. Filling up the strike zone as a pitcher is of the utmost importance to president of baseball operations Scott Harris.

White throws from a lower-than-normal arm slot.

His fastball, which sits around 93 mph, produced a 25.6% swing-and-miss rate inside the strike zone and also induced plenty of grounders. Opponents didn’t chase his fastball outside the zone, so the ability to locate his fastball was one of the primary reasons for his success last season.

“He has a sneaky fastball that misses bats at the top of the zone,” Harris said in December.

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His 82 mph slider, his best secondary pitch, is another reason for his advancement through the Tigers’ farm system, as opponents chased it outside of the zone and rarely hit it hard. The slider averaged more than 3,000 rpm and had a 29% chase rate.

For an idea of his pitch usage, he threw his fastball and slider roughly 90% of the time. He recently learned, through conversations with the Tigers’ pitching coaches, where he should throw his fastball, both to set up his slider and get the most out of his heater.

Pitching coach Chris Fetter instructed White to add a cutter to his weaponry.

“It’s both keeping guys off the fastball and keeping guys off the slider,” White said. “It’s a pitch that goes in the middle of both of them, but then it also helps set up my sinker and my splitter. It’s a different action, and a different velocity dynamic, to give me an extra tool.”

He throws his cutter in the 88-91 mph range.

“Just one more thing for guys to worry about,” White said.

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Most importantly, White logged an impressive 67.9% strike rate last season.

That means he does exactly what Harris wants.

He throws five pitches: fastball, sinker, slider, cutter and splitter. Knowing when to throw those pitches, especially while working out of the bullpen, isn’t a simple task. To manage the repertoire, White has to be honest with himself in games, bullpens and even playing catch.

“Our pregame scouting reports, and also combining that information with what I know I can do with certain pitches,” White said. “If I have a pretty good idea of what they’re trying to do, I can do my best to go to my strengths to expose their weaknesses.”

After that, the secret to his success comes down to one final ingredient.

Executing his pitches.

“It’s been a ton of fun,” White said.

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

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