Tigers call up Will Vest as 27th man for doubleheader: ‘Still part of this’

Detroit News

Detroit — When manager AJ Hinch brought reliever Will Vest into his office in Lakeland late in spring training to inform him he was being optioned to Triple-A Toledo, he let him know that he was being sent down, not out.

Players know the difference.

“Will is a part of this still,” Hinch said before the doubleheader Tuesday against Cleveland, for which Vest was summoned as the 27th man. “We say that all the time when we send guys out. Stay ready. You are still in the mix. You are still an extension of the bullpen.

“And we wanted to take another opportunity here to remind him of that. He was on the edge of making the team despite the tough spring because of what he did last year. We wanted to remind him he’s a good pitcher and he can help us.”

Vest pitched in 59 games in a variety of roles and situations out of the Tigers’ bullpen last season. And for the first 36 of those, he was lights-out, posting a  3.05 ERA and holding opponents to a .228 batting average.

He fatigued in August, allowing 14 runs in his last 21.2 innings and his struggles carried over to the spring. His mechanics got out of whack, his velocity dipped and his command was spotty.

“It had to do with how I was moving down the mound,” Vest said. “I wasn’t really quite moving the same. Also, my mentality. It was about getting back to who I am on the mound.”

Vest, when he’s right, is adrenaline-fueled and aggressive. He comes at hitters like an angry bull. But when you feel disconnected mechanically, when the ball isn’t coming out of your hand like it always has, when you can’t put the ball in the locations you want, it’s tough to have an attack mentality.

“It can be a little tough sometimes in spring training to get that fuel going,” he said. “I had to do a gut check and find that.”

The real gut check came in Hinch’s office on the day he was optioned.

“It’s part of it,” Vest said. “That’s how the game is. I wasn’t performing. There are two ways you can go about it: You can let it beat you or you can say, ‘Alright, I’m going to take this by the reins and turn it around and figure it out.’”

It’s been a gradual process, but recent signs have been positive. The velocity is climbing, back up to the mid-90s. But his command has still been spotty. In his last outing with the Mud Hens he walked two and of his 36 pitches, 19 were balls.

“I feel like in the last few weeks I’ve been the aggressor, I’ve been on the attack,” he said. “I think I’m starting to get back to myself. I had a rough start but I’m getting back to being me.”

Guardians at Tigers

First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit, 97.1 FM

Scouting report

RHP Cal Quantrill (0-1, 5.74), Guardians: It’s been a bumpy start to the season for him. Both his sinker and cutter have been hit around more than usual. He’s got 10 runs and 21 hits on his ledger in 15.2 innings. He has gotten strong with each outing. His last outing against the Nationals he was victimized by one three-run inning fueled by a double-play ball that wasn’t turned.

RHP Spencer Turnbull (1-2, 9.00), Tigers: He welcomed back an old friend last week in Toronto — his slider. He threw 30 of them in a strong, five-inning, six-strikeout performance, earning his first win since May 29, 2021. He was also commanding his four-seam fastball and sinker, throwing them with a velocity range of 90 to 95 mph.


Twitter: @cmccosky

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