Chicago — With starting pitcher Alex Faedo going on the injured list Saturday (finger soreness), the Tigers decided to call-up right-handed bulk-innings reliever Garrett Hill. That could mean the Tigers plan to deploy a bullpen game on Tuesday, which would have been Faedo’s next start.
“Hill will be in the ‘pen and we will use him accordingly the next couple of days,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “We will have a decision to make on how we’re going to piece together the game on Tuesday. … What we do in the next couple of days (in terms of pitcher usage) will dictate what we do Tuesday.”
Hill started the season in the Tigers’ bullpen and struggled. He allowed eight earned runs in seven innings with seven strikeouts and five walks. But after a slow start at Triple-A Toledo, he’s got himself back on track.
Over his last six games, covering 8.1 innings, he’s allowed three earned runs with 16 strikeouts and seven walks.
When asked what helped him turn it around, he gave a hat-tip to teammate Mason Englert.
“Honestly, all of it was taking a note from Englert and doing meditation and getting my breathing under control,” Hill said. “Getting rid of the anxiety and everything like that. Just focusing on breathing, staying calm and being under control.”
His stuff has never been the issue. The average velocity on his four-seam and two-seam fastballs is 94, but he can dial it up to 97 mph, especially in shorter stints. He also mixes three secondary pitches — slider, changeup and curveball. When he’s commanding the strike zone, he’s effective. When he doesn’t, he can struggle.
“I wish it was as simple as just taking a deep breath,” Hinch said. “I do think his usage has gotten better and he’s gotten control of his delivery again, which will help him get control of his pitches. It has progressively gotten better.
“He had a rough start in Triple A. He was trying to find it and get his delivery in sync. He did a lot of work to solidify his delivery and his release point and all that.”
But, Hinch said, at some point you have to take that stuff out of the bullpen and onto the game mound.
“You just can’t forget to hit the compete button on the mound,” he said. “You’ve got to get after it on the mound and let that work naturally take over in the game. Garrett has done a nice job of compartmentalizing the work in the bullpen and getting on the mound and getting after hitters.”
Jake Rogers, leading off the eighth inning of a 2-2 game Sunday, had just swung through a 99-mph fastball at the top of the strike zone. He barely got himself resettled in the batter’s box when reliever Joe Kelly fired another one in just about the same spot.
It was clearly a quick pitch. Rogers had no option but to take it and walk forlornly back to the dugout. But he was seething.
“It was illegal but he got away with it,” Rogers said, sarcastically after the game. “I’m proud of him. It’s BS but he got me.”
Hinch and the Tigers’ dugout yelled out at home plate umpire Ron Kulpa and when Kelly quick-pitched on a ball to Jake Marisnick, he got a warning.
“Pitchers are trying to circumvent the rule and create disruptions,” Hinch said. “Kelly is the best at it. He’s so athletic and he can do a lot of things. We got the second one, which was a ball, but not the first one, which cost us an out.”
Around the horn
Miguel Cabrera is back with the team. He left on Saturday to attend his daughter Isabella’s high school graduation. “That was a special day for him,” Hinch said. “It’s a reminder, like I always say, to stay connected to your family. It’s pretty incredible that he got to be there for that.”
… Tigers’ lefty Tarik Skubal made quick work of his first rehab assignment with High-A West Michigan. He needed just 12 pitches, 10 strikes, to get through two innings. He allowed just one single with one strikeout. His four-seam fastball was sitting at 96 mph.
On deck: Philadelphia Phillies
▶ Series: Three games at Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
▶ First pitch: Monday-Tuesday — 6:40 p.m.; Wednesday — 6:05 p.m.
▶ TV/radio: All three games on Bally Sports Detroit/97.1 FM
▶ Probables: Monday — LHP Joey Wentz (1-5, 7.28) vs. RHP Aaron Nola (4-4, 4.70); Tuesday — TBA vs. RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 5.65); Wednesday — RHP Reese Olson (0-1, 3.60) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (4-4, 4.33).
▶ Wentz, Tigers: He’s coming off an encouraging start against the White Sox, where he allowed a run and struck out five in 4.1 innings. He was attacking the zone with a livelier fastball and his predominant secondary pitch was his curveball, effectively landing it to steal strikes early in counts or when he got behind in counts.
▶ Nola, Phillies: His last two starts, both against NL East opponents (Mets and Braves), went poorly. He was tagged for a combined nine runs in 12 innings, with 12 strikeouts, five walks and four homers. He’s been throwing a higher percentage of curveballs than four-seamers. Understandable. He’s holding hitters to a .223 average with a 31.4% whiff rate.