Detroit Tigers president Scott Harris explains why he’s not rushing guys to majors

Detroit Free Press

Scott Harris has a Twitter account.

He seems to read everything.

The Detroit Tigers‘ president of baseball operations is aware of the biggest question from the fans: Will Harris direct the Tigers — five games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins in the American League Central — to an aggressive approach in hopes of contending for the postseason?

“I’m on Twitter,” Harris said Friday afternoon. “I’m exposed to a lot of chatter out there, but the best thing we can do for our team and our organization is to beat the (Kansas City) Royals tonight, so we’re going to focus on that. There will be plenty of time to sort the rest of it out.”

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Before Friday’s game, Harris spoke to reporters for 13 minutes in the Tigers’ dugout at Comerica Park to discuss the state of the Tigers.

Here are five takeaways from the first-year president of baseball operations:

Four top pitchers on injured list

The Tigers have six starting pitchers on the injured list, including four pitchers Harris talked about: left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (left index finger pulley rupture), lefty Tarik Skubal (left elbow strain), right-hander Matt Manning (right foot fracture) and righty Spencer Turnbull (neck discomfort).

Rodriguez, the ace of the pitching staff and the best trade chip in years, completed a bullpen session Friday. Harris met with Rodriguez on Monday, and the Tigers will provide the details of “his next steps” in Tuesday’s injury report.

“He feels great,” Harris said. “How the player feels definitely influences the future with his plan. … The most important thing is he feels great. He’s itching to get back on the mound, and we’re itching to get him back on the mound.”

Skubal, who underwent left flexor tendon surgery in September 2022, has completed three starts in his rehab assignment with High-A West Michigan (two starts) and Triple-A Toledo (one start).

The 26-year-old has racked up eight scoreless innings with zero walks and 12 strikeouts during his rehab assignment. He threw 31 pitches across three innings Thursday and is scheduled to start Wednesday with the Mud Hens.

“If you watched Tarik’s outing, he didn’t throw enough pitches, so after the outing was over, he walked straight to the bullpen and finished his pitches there,” Harris said. “It’s tough when you see that happen. You want him to be in the big leagues immediately, but we do a lot of work behind the scenes on the history of those injuries and the success rates of rehab progressions.”

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Manning, who fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in April, has completed two starts in his rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo, posing a 4.63 ERA with three walks and seven strikeouts in 11⅔ innings.

The 25-year-old threw 59 pitches across three-plus innings Friday and is scheduled to pitch again this week in the minor leagues. The Tigers have not announced the date of his next outing.

“We’re going to stay hyper disciplined,” Harris said of Skubal and Manning. “We can’t afford not to. These guys are too important to our future to accelerate their rehab to get one extra start this year.”

Turnbull, meanwhile, has started his throwing progression as he works toward a rehab assignment.

“Spencer is really talented,” Harris said. “You guys have heard me talk about him on the record quite a bit already. We just need to get him healthy. We need to get him pitching so we can see it. Beyond that, I don’t really have any information to share.”

‘Positive reports’ on Austin Meadows

Outfielder Austin Meadows — on the 60-day injured list because of anxiety — hasn’t played since April 6. The 28-year-old recently left Detroit and returned to his home in Florida to continue working on his mental and physical health.

“The reports that we have received from Austin are positive,” Harris said. “He is working through treatment. He is also working out. He is in a very healthy environment for him and his progress. We’re keeping tabs on him. We’re rooting like hell for him. That’s about all I can share right now.”

The Tigers acquired Meadows under former general manager Al Avila in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays in April 2022. To get Meadows, the Tigers sent infielder Isaac Paredes and a draft pick to the Rays.

Meadows is making $4.3 million this season.

The Colt Keith situation

In Double-A Erie, third baseman Colt Keith is hitting .325 with 14 home runs, 25 walks and 58 strikeouts in 55 games.

The 20-year-old missed three games last week because of arm fatigue, as the Tigers took a cautious approach to his return because of his season-ending shoulder injury last June. But he returned to the lineup Thursday and launched a home run in his first plate appearance.

“He embodies the offensive approach we’re trying to build around in this organization,” Harris said. “He’s swinging at the right pitches; he’s accessing his power almost every night. If you don’t catch yourself, it’s easy to forget that he’s the youngest player on the team, and he’s one of the youngest players in Double-A, and he missed some valuable reps over the course of his young career due to injury.”

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A promotion to Triple-A Toledo could be coming soon, but Harris didn’t put a timetable on when Keith — a left-handed hitter — will advance to the next level in the farm system. He is the No. 2 prospect in the organization, according to MLB Pipeline.

It seems unlikely that the Tigers will promote Keith to the big leagues without a stint in Toledo.

“The best thing that Colt can do right now is focus on getting better every day,” Harris said. “The standard he’s setting at that level, being obsessed with trying to get better every day, is a standard that we want to have at all levels.”

Harris outlined the specific player development goals for Keith. There are three goals: see different types of pitching, refine his defense at third base and second base and make up for “some of those lost reps” from last year’s shoulder injury while playing in High-A West Michigan.

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One way for position players in Double-A Erie to see different types of pitching, as Harris explained, is to make the jump to Triple-A Toledo.

So far, Keith has received 292 plate appearances in High-A West Michigan and 258 plate appearances in Double-A Erie. He won the Eastern League Player of the Month in May and has a .992 on-base-plus-slugging percentage with the SeaWolves this season.

“The gap between Triple-A pitching and major-league pitching has never been wider than it is right now,” Harris said. “I want to see all these players up in Detroit just as bad as all the fans do, but I have an obligation in my position to make sure that they are prepared to be able to hit this pitching.

“I wouldn’t entirely rule out a jump from Double-A to the big leagues for any of our players moving forward, but it’s really hard to make up for the reps that they can get against different types of pitchers in Triple-A. I think you’re seeing that with some of the prospects we have in Toledo right now.”

‘Very involved’ in MLB draft

The Tigers have the No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 draft.

These five players, considered the best five players, could be available for the Tigers: outfielder Dylan Crews (LSU), outfielder Wyatt Langford (Florida), right-hander Paul Skenes (LSU), outfielder Max Clark (Franklin High School, Indiana) and outfielder Walker Jenkins (South Brunswick High School, North Carolina).

Harris said he is “very involved” in the upcoming draft, working alongside assistant general manager Rob Metzler and scouting director Mark Conner.

“I love the draft,” Harris said. “It’s such an opportunity for this organization to add talent that we can really build around, so I’m very involved. I think you guys know me well enough to know that I’m not going to share anything about the third pick or any of the other picks we have until we make them. But I will be very excited to talk about all of the players.”

He was also asked if he has been watching the College World Series, which started June 15 and ends June 26. Harris deflected by joking about Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who graduated from Stanford with a psychology degree and was a third-round pick in the 1996 draft.

Stanford was eliminated Monday afternoon by Tennessee.

“As far as the College World Series, I’m just trying to stop talking about Stanford,” Harris said. “Our manager has been talking my ear off about Stanford every time I walk in, and I would like him to focus on the Tigers and not the Cardinal as much as possible.”

General manager?

Harris plans to hire a general manager at some point in the future, but he isn’t actively searching for a general manager. He did not put a timetable on hiring a right-hand person to help him run the organization.

It seems like an offseason priority.

“I got a lot on my plate right now, so I haven’t been working on that,” Harris said. “We still intend to hire a GM. I think I will pick that back up when things slow down, but I’m not actively working on it.”

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

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