Detroit Tigers think Mason Englert has arm fatigue, but Rule 5 pick wants to keep pitching

Detroit Free Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Tigers right-handed reliever Mason Englert, a Rule 5 draft pick from the Texas Rangers, wants to continue pitching.

The Tigers have identified potential arm fatigue, simply based on Englert’s idiosyncrasies on the mound and obvious decline in velocity, but the 23-year-old hasn’t reported an injury or asked for a trip to the injured list.

“I’ll probably stay away from him today, and we’ll just kind of manage it accordingly,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “He is a tough kid. He wants to continue as normal. He’s not really referencing anything (injury). But we’re going to need to see him be normal.”

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Englert has a 4.87 ERA with 13 walks and 28 strikeouts in 40⅔ innings across 23 games (one start). The 23-year-old has struggled through five appearances in June with a 5.00 ERA, four walks and six strikeouts over nine innings.

In Friday’s 7-1 win against the Minnesota Twins, Hinch and assistant athletic trainer Matt Rankin visited Englert during the second inning (his first of two innings) in the Tigers’ bullpen-only game.

Hinch and Rankin didn’t think he seemed healthy and were concerned about arm fatigue or an injury.

His fastball averaged 89.2 mph — down from 93 mph in spring training — while his slider averaged 81.7 (down from 85 mph in spring training) and his changeup averaged 81 mph (down from 83 mph in spring training).

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“We’re in the grind part of the middle of the season for him, and he’s not going to really want to talk about being fatigued,” Hinch said after Friday’s game. “Hopefully, he’s not hurt. We’ll get him fully checked out. His mannerisms tipped us off that something might be wrong. He assured us that he wasn’t, and that’s why we sent him back out again (for the third inning). But we need to look at him and make sure he’s not grunting through something.”

If the Tigers place Englert on the injured list before he reaches 90 days on the active roster, he would need to recover and return to the big leagues at some point before the end of the season.

Englert has been on the active roster for 79 days, including Saturday.

If Englert doesn’t accrue a minimum of 90 days on the active roster this season, the Tigers would be bound by the same Rule 5 draft restrictions — Rule 5 picks can’t be optioned to the minor leagues — in the 2024 season.

For now, the Tigers are treating Englert’s situation as midseason arm fatigue for a young pitcher who hadn’t pitched above the Double-A level before the 2023 season. But he will still be required to pitch.

“Hopefully, he can pitch tomorrow,” Hinch said. “We have another bullpen game.”

‘It’s just a foot’

Right-hander Matt Manning (right foot fracture) completed the second start of his rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Toledo. He will make a third rehab start with the Mud Hens, likely Wednesday.

The 25-year-old allowed one unearned run on five hits and one walk with two strikeouts across three-plus innings in Friday’s start, throwing 36 of 59 pitches for strikes. He exited because of his pitch-count limit after a leadoff walk in the fourth inning.

“He felt as good as he’s felt, more stuff-wise,” Hinch said. “We don’t even really talk about the foot because it’s just a foot, so why would we talk about it? I couldn’t resist.”

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The foot comment was an inside joke from Hinch that goes back to April 11, when Manning fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot on the final pitch of his start against the Toronto Blue Jays.

After the game, Manning said he wanted to make his next start because “it’s just a foot.” He hasn’t pitched for the Tigers since April 11.

The right foot, though, healed a while ago, so at this point, Manning is simply building up his pitch count and refining the command of his pitches during his rehab assignment with the Mud Hens.

In Friday’s start, Manning threw 35 fastballs (59%), 11 curveballs (19%), eight sliders (14%), four changeups (7%) and one sinker (2%). He generated six whiffs with one fastball, two curveballs, one slider, one changeup and one sinker.

His fastball averaged 94.5 mph and topped out at 96.3 mph.

“His stuff finally felt good,” Hinch said. “He felt like he could handle his pitch count. We’ll see him back in Detroit for the bullpen when we get home. He’s going to have another outing in the minors, but I do love the feedback was that it was the best four-pitch mix he’s had in his build up.”

A 97.5 mph fastball

Right-hander Beau Brieske (right ulnar nerve entrapment) completed the fourth outing — the second outing with Triple-A Toledo — in his rehab assignment Friday and will pitch again Saturday.

The 25-year-old tossed 1⅓ scoreless innings with one walk and two strikeouts, throwing 14 of 23 pitches for strikes. Pitching in back-to-back games, rather than building up his pitch count in the starting rotation, solidifies Brieske as a reliever for the foreseeable future.

“Brieske was great,” Hinch said.

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For his 23 pitches, Brieske threw 14 four-seam fastballs (61%), three changeups (13%), three sliders (13%), two sinkers (9%) and one curveball (4%). He registered four whiffs, including three with his fastball, and two called strikes.

His fastball averaged 95.9 mph and maxed out at 97.5 mph.

Brieske, who started 15 games for the Tigers last season, has been on the injured list since the end of spring training.

Jackson Jobe starts rehab assignment

Right-hander Jackson Jobe, the 2021 No. 3 overall pick, began his rehab assignment Saturday in the Florida Complex League. The 20-year-old is recovering from lumbar spine inflammation.

He sent down all six batters he faced for two perfect innings with four strikeouts. He struck out the side in the second inning, facing Cristian Feliz, Luis Garcia and Jose Ferrer from the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization.

It marked his first official game since Sept. 10.

Jobe, who posted a 3.84 ERA in 21 starts last season, ranks as the Tigers’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, behind second baseman Jace Jung and third baseman Colt Keith.

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

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