Tigers’ rotation almost whole, but more alterations could be in the works after break

Detroit News

Detroit — Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Eduardo Rodriguez and Alex Faedo are back. They are healed and, for now, back in the Tigers’ starting rotation along with Michael Lorenzen and Reese Olson.

All good things. But now what?

For most of June the Tigers operated with no more than four starters, using planned bullpen games every fifth or sixth day depending on how the schedule (and previous starters’ performances) went.

Conceivably, when the Tigers convene in Seattle after the All-Star break a week from Friday, they will have six starters. Manager AJ Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter will have a decision, or two, to make.

“I just want to believe it’s going to get back to whatever you’re talking about,” Hinch said with a smile on Thursday when he announced the return of Faedo. “That’s not being flip. I am being serious. We just haven’t had the run of decisions we might have expected.”

That’s for sure. But they’re coming.

The Tigers creatively eased Skubal back into the rotation after an 11-month convalescence from flexor tendon surgery by piggybacking his first start, and probably his next start on Sunday, with Olson. That served the dual purpose of keeping Olson in the mix and governing his innings.

It’s possible that Faedo could transition to a bulk-inning relief role, especially with lefty long-reliever Tyler Alexander (shoulder) out for the season.

“Sometimes it sorts itself out, one way or another,” Hinch said. “One guy goes on the 60-day IL (Matthew Boyd) when another comes off (Manning). Maybe we make some moves. But that stuff will iron out over time.”

Moves seem inevitable. Rodriguez and Lorenzen are both on most industry lists of starting pitchers likely to be traded before the Aug. 1 deadline. Several of the Tigers’ bullpen arms (Jason Foley, Jose Cisnero and Will Vest) have drawn interest from contending teams, as well.

“I do think we have a couple of guys who are versatile enough to give us some thoughts on how differently a pitching staff can be built,” Hinch said. “Whether it’s with bridge guys or the tandem games like we’ve done with Skubal and Olson.”

Faedo isn’t the only option if the Tigers are looking for versatile arms that can be used for bulk innings out of the bullpen. Right-hander Beau Brieske’s rehab assignment is up Saturday. He would be another ready multi-inning option.

Also, right-handed starter Spencer Turnbull (neck) should be ready to start a rehab assignment soon after the All-Star break. He could replace Rodriguez and/or Lorenzen, should they be traded.

“There are a lot of ways we can attack it,” Hinch said. “We are going to play 17 straight games to start the second half. That will beg the question, ‘How are we going to get through it?’”

Baddoo back

Akil Baddoo, out since June 9 with a quad strain, was back in the starting lineup Friday.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said before the game. “Greeney is feeling good, I’m coming back. Hopefully we can carry it over the All-Star break and then get back to where we started before the injuries, playing with a lot of fun and success.”

Riley Greene (left fibula) is expected to be activated before the game Saturday. He’s been out since May 30.

“Akil’s ready to go,” said Hinch. “He’s an energy provider in the dugout, in the clubhouse and in the stands. Everybody loves when Akil plays. We’re still going to govern him a little bit. He will probably only play in two of the three games just to be careful with his leg.”

It’s not the best timing for Baddoo or Greene — getting back just in time to take a four-day break for the All-Star Game.

“I’m just glad I’m healthy,” Baddoo said. “That’s most important. We’ll play these two games, take the four-day break and then be ready to go with a clean slate.”

Mobile rehab unit

Pitchers Casey Mize, Turnbull and Vest will be continuing their rehab work in Lakeland over the break.

Vest (right lower leg strain) had an encouraging day Friday. He threw out to 120 feet on flat ground but, more importantly, he intensified his running work and came out of it symptom-free.

“It’s the best it’s felt, for sure,” he said. “I am just trying to get to where I can keep turning the intensity up. I’m still favoring it a little bit. Today was symptom-free, which was good.”

Vest said he felt a pop in his right leg after he threw a pitch on June 26.

“Initially I was nervous because I thought it was much worse than it was,” he said. “I thought I blew out my knee. But that was just the emotions of it. It ended up being a strain, so that’s good. It’s getting stronger every day, which is the biggest thing.”

Vest hadn’t given up a run in seven straight outings before the injury, covering 6⅓ innings.

Around the horn

Outfielder Matt Vierling was taking reps at second base and third base before the game Friday. Understandable with the return of Greene and Baddoo, two outfield-only players. Vierling hasn’t played infield since April 26.

… The Tigers will have to make a corresponding roster move on Saturday to accommodate Greene’s return.

… How good has rookie lefty Tyler Holton been? Since June 4, he’s allowed two earned runs and struck out 20 in 13 games covering 18⅓ innings. He ranks eighth on the season among American League relievers (30 innings minimum) with a 1.93 ERA and is 10th with a 1.01 WHIP. Pretty good.

Blue Jays at Tigers

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

TV/radio: BSD, MLBN/97.1


RHP Kevin Gausman (7-4, 3.04), Blue Jays: Never a fun day having to face this guy, with his 95-mph heater and unhittable split (.206 opponent average, 80 strikeouts, 42.6% whiff rate). He struck out 11 Tigers in Toronto back in April. His 146 strikeouts leads the American League, as does his 18 starts. His 32.7% strikeout rate ranks in the top 7% of baseball.

RHP Matt Manning (2-1, 4.84), Tigers: This is his third start back off the IL and he should be free of any innings limitations. He threw 96 pitches in Colorado in his last start. His slider, which he’d probably classify as a work in progress even in spring training this season, has become arguably his best tool. Hitters are 2-for-20 against it in the short sample.


Twitter: @cmccosky

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