Former All-Star closer Rosenthal a wild-card entry into Tigers’ bullpen battle

Detroit News

Fort Myers, Fla. — Tigers manager AJ Hinch was trying to wind down after managing three spring-training games in less than 24 hours (in Clearwater, Tampa and Lakeland) while preparing to drive downstate for two more games in Fort Myers when he got the news.

Tigers president Scott Harris was at it again. At around 7 p.m. Saturday night, the Tigers announced the signing of former All-Star closer Trevor Rosenthal to a minor-league deal, with an invitation to big-league camp.

“Yeah, I’d like to talk to him,” Hinch said Sunday morning. “All that happened when we were at the fields. My understanding is (Rosenthal) is maybe a tick behind, but I need to talk to him before I know exactly what his availability is.

“I know he’s been throwing. He’s thrown some bullpens. I know he’s trending in the right direction.”

Rosenthal, who was with the Tigers briefly in 2019, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2020. Because of an assortment of injuries, he’s only thrown two innings since, and that was last year at Triple-A Nashville.

He was coming back from Tommy John surgery when the Tigers had him last. He missed 2021 after thoracic outlet surgery, and he missed most of last season because of a hamstring injury.

“Certainly, when healthy, he’s an exciting guy who can do some things in a bullpen and help a team win,” Hinch said.

The 32-year-old Rosenthal was back in Lakeland Sunday morning and he spoke to MLive’s Evan Woodbery.

“Just like any competitor, when you have setbacks, you keep pushing until you can’t push anymore,” said Rosenthal, who turns 33 on May 29. “I feel good right now, and I’ve felt good throughout the offseason and especially these last couple of months gearing up for the season.”

Before Tommy John surgery, Rosenthal was a beast, throwing upper-90s fastballs with an almost unhittable changeup. He saved 93 games in 2014 and 2015 combined. His average fastball velocity was still 98 in 2020 and he’d replaced his changeup for a slider as his secondary pitch of choice.

In his 10 games with the Tigers in 2019, he still hadn’t regained the command of his pitches, walking 11 and striking out 12 in 9 innings.

“I remember Detroit being a great clubhouse and a great city,” he said. “It’s a great team and franchise and I’m excited to be part of it again.”

Rosenthal said he feels ready to jump right into the fray, but the Tigers are likely to be a little cautious.

“We’re going to be very smart about how we handle the next few weeks and see where that takes us,” Hinch said. “I know we’re excited to add him as an option, but how that plays out, I really need to talk to him.

“But, his experience is valuable and his stuff is even more valuable.”

Twitter: @cmccosky

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