St. Petersburg, Fla. — Even the veteran was sweating it.
Tigers president Scott Harris and manager AJ Hinch took the final rosters cuts into the 11th hour, leading up to the season opener here Thursday, leaving rookie right-hander Mason Englert, right-handers Trey Wingenter and Garrett Hill, infielder Ryan Kreidler and veteran lefty Chasen Shreve to wait and wonder.
“Yeah, they cut it to the wire to tell everybody,” said Shreve, who has been traded twice and released five times in his nine big-league seasons. “It was a little nerve-wracking, for sure.”
But ultimately, the news was good.
“The longer you wait, the more you let your mind run a little,” Wingenter said. “You know it’s going one of two ways — either you are getting on a flight or you’re hanging around for a few days.”
Eight Tigers players made Opening Day rosters for the first time — starting pitcher Joey Wentz, catcher Jake Rogers, center fielder Riley Greene, outfielder Kerry Carpenter and infielder Nick Maton, plus Kreidler, Hill and Englert.
“I’m pumped,” said Kreidler, who got the start at third base Thursday. “It’s amazing. It’s going to be really exciting. My whole life, I wanted to start on Opening Day. It feels like a second debut, and it feels like a fresh start for the boys. Everyone is 0-0 right now, so anything can happen.”
Imagine the emotions roiling through Wingenter, both before he got the news and then as he walked down to the bullpen Thursday. The 6-foot-7 former Padre hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2019. He had Tommy John surgery and then subsequent elbow and back issues.
To not only work his way back to good health, but to win a roster spot — well, he had no words.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said. “I haven’t had time to reflect and I may not for a while. But, when that time comes, I’m going to be very thankful for the journey and to all the people who helped me along the way — the trainers, the medical staffs across multiple organizations, along with my (trainer) in Nashville and my friends and family.
“It’s been a long journey, but it feels good to get back here, for sure.”
When Wingenter says he’s happy to be here, believe him.
“I know everybody hates that cliché, but I really am,” he said. “I am happy to play baseball again. It was taken away for a couple of years and now it’s back. You cherish each game now maybe even more than before.”
There was only one player in the Tigers’ clubhouse who hadn’t made their big-league debut and that was Englert, the Rule 5 rookie who had barely pitched above High-A.
“I don’t know if I thought it would be this exact path, but I definitely had faith this is where it was heading,” he said. “Even last year, when I was having an average year before things clicked, I still had faith that I was one subtle adjustment away from making it happen.
“I am very thankful to be here.”
Englert got called into Hinch’s office on Wednesday and told he’d made the team.
“I felt relaxed, but when we got to the last couple of days, like Monday through Wednesday, I started to realize that the decision was coming up,” he said. “I started to stress a little bit. I started to feel emotions I hadn’t felt all spring.
“I felt more relaxed last night after I got the word, and I could celebrate a little bit with my family.”
Hinch said he would love to find Englert a soft entry into his big-league career, but a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays doesn’t generally afford many soft entries.
“He wouldn’t have made the team if we didn’t feel like he could pitch,” Hinch said. “In a perfect, perfect world we’d get the perfect setup, with us having a big lead and he can settle in. But, the best-laid plans don’t always work that way.
“I will try to get him a good outing, but I will not be afraid to use him.”
The 23-year-old Englert hasn’t appeared to be overwhelmed by much since he first showed up to camp.
“I’m all-in on him,” Hinch said. “He’s got a chance to be really good. His nerves and emotions are extreme today because he’s never done this before. But, based on how he handled all the challenges we put in front of him this spring, he was dialed in.”
Around the horn
… Pitchers Beau Brieske (upper-arm discomfort) and Michael Lorenzen (left groin strain) and infielder Tyler Nevin (oblique strain) were put on the injured list — 15 days for the pitchers, 10 days for Nevin.
…The Tigers added Shreve and Wingenter, who were in camp as non-roster invitees, to the 40-man roster. To clear space, the designated reliever Edwin Uceta for assignment. Earlier in the week the DFA’d and then resigned right-hander Rony Garcia to a minor-league deal.
…Pitchers Beau Brieske (upper arm discomfort) and Michael Lorenzen (left groin strain) and infielder Tyler Nevin (oblique strain) were put on the injured list – 15 days for the pitchers, 10 days for Nevin.
… The game Saturday might resemble an Oviedo High School reunion. The Tigers’ Greene said he expected to have at least 50 friends and family members in attendance. In fact, his friends have rented out a suite at the Trop. The Tigers will be facing right-hander Zach Eflin. Both he and Greene are graduates of Oviedo High School, which is 125 miles east of St. Pete.