Tigers reliever Tyler Holton proving so far to be waiver-wire gem

Detroit News

Minneapolis — Tigers president Scott Harris is steadfastly unapologetic about scouring the waiver wire like a binging bargain hunter. He’s made 19 waiver claims in his short time at the helm.

Some have panned out, some have not. But he’s seemingly found gold in lefty reliever Tyler Holton.

Holton’s 1.2-inning stint Friday was his sixth straight scoreless outing. He’s not allowed a run in 8.1 straight innings. On the season, the rookie has a 1.96 ERA with an 0.982 WHIP, which ranks 10th in the American League among qualified relievers.

“It feels great,” Holton said. “That’s what I want. I want to do whatever I can for the team. I’ve been used in a couple of different ways. It’s exciting to have different experiences. You just don’t know what you are going to get each day. You just go out there and try to do your job.”

Holton’s primary weapons are a well-located four-seam fastball (91 mph) and a changeup that’s holding hitters to a .143 average with a 39% whiff rate. But what’s taken him next-level is the development of a slider.

“I worked on it a lot in the offseason,” Holton said, saying he wanted to develop another weapon against left-handed hitters. “It took some time. It didn’t have the same shape it does now. It’s kind of taken off since I’ve been up here.”

Hitters are 1 for 15 against it.

“From an arsenal standpoint, the slider gives him another shape to impact hitters, righties and lefties, which has been really good,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “I like the sinker. He mixed in his four-seam (Friday night). The changeup always seems to be there.

“As a reliever, when that gate opens, hitters generally have to worry about two things and I just rattled off four pitches that Tyler can attack with. Maybe that in and of itself is his hidden strength.”

That and the fact that he’s unflappable on the mound and he pounds the strike zone (64% strikes).

“I think there was just one game where he lost the strike zone,” Hinch said. “He’s pretty bullish in the strike zone, which is a huge key for him. He’s made a really strong impact on our bullpen.”

More: Tigers’ scorching Matt Vierling developing cult following in the Bay area

Around the horn

Hinch and the Tigers’ medical staff were concerned about reliever Mason Englert on Friday night. The velocity was down considerably on his fastball (88-89 mph from 92-93 mph) and his secondary stuff wasn’t nearly as sharp. On Saturday, Hinch said they were hoping the 23-year-old was only dealing with arm fatigue and not an injury. “We’re just going to manage it accordingly,” Hinch said. “He’s a tough kid and he wants to continue as normal. He’s not referencing anything (injury-wise). But we’re going to need to see him be normal.”

… Hinch said right-handed starter Matt Manning, who threw three scoreless innings in his rehab start for Triple-A Toledo Friday, will make at least one more rehab start before they discuss activating him. “He said he felt as good as he’s felt, stuff-wise,” Hinch said. “We will see him when we get back to Detroit. I do love the feedback that it was the best four-pitch mix he’s had in his build-up.”

… Right-hander Beau Brieske (ulnar nerve entrapment) pitched 1.1 scoreless innings for Toledo on Friday, too. He didn’t allow a hit and his fastball sat at 96 mph and hit 97.5. Brieske was expected to pitch at least part of an inning Saturday.

Tigers at Twins

▶ First pitch: 2:10 p.m. Sunday, Target Field, Minneapolis

▶ TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit/97.1 FM

Scouting report

▶ TBD, Tigers: For the second time in this series and the third time this week, the Tigers will deploy a bullpen game – using relievers to cover all nine innings.

▶ RHP Louis Varland (3-2, 4.70), Twins: A St. Paul native, the rookie is coming off a couple of rough starts. After he blanked the Astros over seven innings at the end of May, he’s allowed 11 runs in 10.2 innings in his last two starts. He throws cutters, sliders and changeups off a 95-mph four-seam fastball. His chase rate (28%) and whiff rate (25%) are below league average and he’s been susceptible to the home run ball (12 in 51 innings).


Twitter: @cmccosky

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