Reliever Trey Wingenter gets surprise start in Detroit Tigers’ 5-0 loss vs. Blue Jays

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-0, on Monday at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The Tigers are 12-13 in Grapefruit League play.

What happened

On Sunday night, Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter texted right-handed reliever Trey Wingenter. He wasn’t supposed to pitch until Tuesday, but the Tigers needed him to pitch Monday against the Blue Jays in a bullpen-only game because righty reliever Michael Lorenzen suffered an injury.

Turns out, Wingenter received an unexpected opportunity to start.

The 28-year-old struck out two batters in a scoreless first inning, throwing 11 of 15 pitches for strikes. He hasn’t allowed a run in spring training and should feel good about his chances of making the Opening Day roster.

“High school definitely, college a little bit,” Wingenter said. “The idea of throwing four or five innings sounds terrible now. I’d rather throw one inning today, one inning tomorrow. But it was fun. I kept the same routine.”

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In the eighth inning, right-handed reliever Garrett Hill plunked the first batter he faced, Vinny Capra, with a 95.3 mph sinker. The next batter, former Tigers minor-leaguer Wynton Bernard, tagged a slider that didn’t break into left field for an RBI double, putting the Blue Jays ahead 1-0.

The Blue Jays extended their lead to 2-0 with one out in the eighth when Garrett Spain struck out swinging. Rob Brantly stole second base, and when catcher Michael Papierski threw to the bag, Bernard stole home.

Hill threw 48 pitches and was responsible for three hits, three walks and five runs across 1⅔ innings, as Dasan Brown launched a three-run homer in the top of the ninth. Right-hander Austin Bergner got the final out.

“His misses have been costly because they’ve ended up in walks or hit-by-pitches that set up big innings, and the crooked numbers come,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “It looks like his delivery in his arm is inconsistent, so he’s rushing down the hill. He’s late with his arm. He’s late with his break. Those arm-side misses are costly.”

Starting off

The first three pitchers, all featured in the latest version of the Free Press’ Opening Day roster prediction, were Wingenter, left-hander Chasen Shreve and right-hander Mason Englert. The three relievers are trending in the right direction as the March 30 season opener approaches.

“They’ve been very good at throwing strikes, missing bats, getting soft contact,” Hinch said of Wingenter and Shreve. “They’ve done everything they can to make a solid impression. We put Wingenter in probably the most uncomfortable position that we can by having him open the game. If he continues to fill the strike zone, he’s going to factor in for sure.”

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Wingenter struck out Kevin Kiermaier with his slider and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with his fastball in the first inning. His fastball averaged 94.9 mph, while his slider produced three whiffs on five swings.

He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2019 because of several injuries over the past four years. This spring, the hard-throwing righty has tossed six scoreless innings with one walk and nine strikeouts.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Wingenter said. “They want me to attack the zone, and for me, that starts on the backfields with my delivery, so when I go out there, I can do the same thing over and over and rely on that. And that’s how I’m going to throw strikes, and that’s how I’m going to dominate.”

Shreve, known for his splitter, needed 13 pitches — throwing eight of them for strikes — to complete the second inning. The 32-year-old, whose sinker averaged 90.9 mph, struck out two batters: Nathan Lukes (swinging strike, 83 mph splitter) and Bernard (swinging strike, 84 mph splitter).

A nine-year MLB veteran, Shreve owns a 1.42 ERA with one walk and 10 strikeouts across 6⅓ innings in six appearances this spring.

At the plate

Blue Jays right-hander Kevin Gausman dominated the Tigers through five scoreless innings on three hits and zero walks. He progressed his pitch count to 86 pitches and struck out six batters along the way.

Spencer Torkelson drilled a fastball down the middle — 103.6 mph exit velocity — for a ground-ball single into right field in the second inning.

Riley Greene tripled off Gausman’s fastball to start the fourth, but the next three batters were retired in order: Javier Báez (groundout), Nick Maton (strikeout) and Spencer Torkelson (groundout).

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Austin Meadows hit a double with one out in the fifth inning. The fly ball dropped into shallow center field, between Santiago Espinal (shortstop) and Kiermaier (center fielder), but Jonathan Schoop grounded out and Jake Rogers struck out.

Greene finished 2-for-3 and is hitting .342 in spring training.

Both Báez and Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-3 in their returns from the World Baseball Classic.

On the mound

Englert, selected in the Rule 5 draft, entered for the third inning and maintained the efficient approach from the Tigers’ relievers. He pitched three perfect innings with three strikeouts, throwing 21 of 26 pitches for strikes.

“Today was an extreme display of strike throwing and efficiency,” Hinch said. “Other than almost trying to bare-hand a comebacker, that was about as flawless of an outing as we could hope for him. I’m very proud of him for staying very focused on the strike zone. Other than a few misfires, he’s been excellent.”

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He needed just eight pitches in the third and struck out the first two batters he faced: Ernie Clement (swinging strike, 85.3 mph slider) and Brantly (swinging strike, 85.2 mph changeup). He used all his pitches — fastball, slider, curveball and changeup — to generate five swings and misses.

The 23-year-old has a 2.25 ERA with two walks and 14 strikeouts across 12 innings in six outings this spring. As a Rule 5 pick, he must stay on the Tigers’ 26-man active roster for the entire season or be offered back to the Texas Rangers.

“He’s pretty focused,” Hinch said. “He’s very, very good at doing what he does and staying in control. Every jump is new. His first jump to big-league camp has been easy for him to maintain that. Challenges are ahead.”

Left-hander Jace Fry covered the sixth and seventh innings, keeping the Blue Jays from scoring while racking up two strikeouts, before Hill took the mound in the eighth and allowed two runs, then three more runs in the ninth.

Three stars

1. Englert; 2. Wingenter; 3. Shreve.

Next up

Tuesday (1:05 p.m.) vs. New York Yankees in Tampa.

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

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