Detroit Tigers claim slider-heavy reliever Andrew Vasquez off waivers from Phillies

Detroit Free Press

When the Detroit Tigers traded right-hander Michael Lorenzen on Tuesday, the Philadelphia Phillies cleared space for his arrival on the 40-man roster by designating left-handed reliever Andrew Vasquez for assignment.

The Tigers then claimed Vasquez, who doesn’t have any minor-league options remaining, off waivers Friday from the Phillies. He will join the Tigers for Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park.

“It’s no secret what he does,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Friday. “He spins a ton of sliders, arguably as much as anybody in baseball. He’s somebody that we feel like can attack both lefties and righties, but specifically lefties. We’ll reshape our bullpen with him in it.”

The 29-year-old posted a 2.27 ERA (but a poor 4.31 FIP, which measures home runs, strikeouts and walks) with 14 walks (8.2% walk rate) and 34 strikeouts (20% strikeout rate) in 39⅔ innings across 30 games for the Phillies this season.

Vasquez, at 6 feet 6 and 235 pounds, has five pitches in his arsenal — slider, four-seam fastball, curveball, sinker and changeup — but primarily uses one pitch. He threw his slider 82.2% of the time with the Phillies, accounting for 537 of his 653 pitches.

One problem: His slider generated just an 18.1% whiff rate — he doesn’t miss many bats.

Another problem: His fastball averaged 89.2 mph.

And yet Vasquez has limited hard contact throughout 2023. He ranks in the 98th percentile in hard-hit rate, the 97th percentile in average exit velocity, the 80th percentile in expected batting average, the 78th percentile in expected slugging percentage and the 66th percentile in barrel rate.

There’s a connection between Vasquez and Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris. The San Francisco Giants — with Harris as the general manager — claimed Vasquez off waivers from the Phillies, who had claimed him from the Blue Jays, in August 2022.

The Tigers will need to demote a player from the 26-man roster before activating Vasquez for Saturday’s game against the Rays.

Lorenzen deals for Philly

The Tigers traded Lorenzen to the Phillies, in exchange for infield prospect Hao-Yu Lee, about two hours before Tuesday’s trade deadline. Lee reported to High-A West Michigan for his first game Thursday, while Lorenzen started for the Phillies on Thursday against the Miami Marlins.

The 31-year-old pitched eight innings of two-run ball with six hits, one walk and five strikeouts. He threw a season-high 101 pitches, with 71.3% strikes. He also reached a season-high for innings pitched.

“I watched almost all of it,” Hinch said. “I flip through baseball games on off days. I texted with him after the outing. I told him that he looked weird in red, and then he reminded me he’s been wearing red his whole career with Cincinnati and Anaheim. But it was good to see him pitch well. … I do root for guys to show well right after they make a big change like that, or their careers get altered a little bit.

Lorenzen, a nine-year MLB veteran, posted a 3.58 ERA with 27 walks and 83 strikeouts across 105⅔ innings in 18 starts before the Tigers traded him to the Phillies. He signed a one-year, $8.5 million contract in December 2022.

Rehabbing Mud Hens

Right-hander Spencer Turnbull started Friday for Triple-A Toledo in the third outing of his rehab assignment. Neck discomfort has sidelined Turnbull since early May, but he is on his way back to the Tigers.

It marked Turnbull’s first start for the Mud Hens.

The 30-year-old made the first two starts of his rehab assignment with High-A West Michigan, posting a 3.60 ERA with zero walks and five strikeouts in five innings. He tossed 23 pitches in his first start, then 34 pitches in his second start.

After Turnbull pitches, right-handed reliever Will Vest is scheduled to come out of the Triple-A Toledo bullpen for the second appearance of his rehab assignment. He hasn’t pitched for the Tigers since June 26 because of a right lower leg strain.

In his first game, Vest allowed two runs on one hit and one walk with two strikeouts. Miles Mastrobuoni, a left-handed hitter from Triple-A Iowa (Chicago Cubs), blasted his elevated 94.6 mph fastball for a two-run home run.

Vest needed 24 pitches to get two outs.

Tigers release Rincones

On Friday, the Tigers released outfielder Diego Rincones. The 24-year-old signed as a minor-league free agent in the offseason. He previously played in the San Francisco Giants’ organization.

Rincones, a below-average defender in the outfield, hit .242 with seven home runs, 16 walks and 30 strikeouts in 51 games with Double-A Erie. He had a .306 on-base percentage and .707 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

He hit .206 over 10 games in July.

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

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