CLEVELAND — Right-hander Casey Mize has been traveling with the Detroit Tigers on his road to recovery from Tommy John surgery. He hangs out with his teammates in the clubhouse before games and sits in the dugout during games.
The 26-year-old, who has been with the Tigers every day since the All-Star break, could face some of his teammates in live batting practice, the next step in his rehabilitation program.
“His next program is going to be facing some hitters here pretty soon,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday at Progressive Field in Cleveland. “He still has not completed the bullpen phase of his rehab. It would then get to live BPs with actual hitters.”
The monotonous bullpen sessions, which Mize began nearly 60 days ago, on June 21, with 10 fastballs in a short-box bullpen, are about to conclude. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick has maintained high-powered velocity while throwing his full arsenal of pitches in recent bullpens.
“He’s throwing at the capacity that he normally would,” Hinch said. “Whether a hitter is in the box or not, the velocity is the same. It’s just something about the adrenaline that comes with facing hitters.”
Mize is scheduled to face live hitters for the first time within the next 10-14 days. Once that happens, the Tigers will officially decide Mize’s plan for the remainder of the regular season, which ends Oct. 1 at Comerica Park.
It’s unclear if he will pitch for the Tigers, or even begin a rehab assignment, during the 2023 season.
“That will tell us more about the plan,” Hinch said. “We still are encouraged by where he’s at. No matter how hard it is to not talk about, we’re not going to go more than a week at a time until further notice.”
Mize underwent Tommy John surgery — the reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow — on June 15, 2022. He hasn’t pitched for the Tigers since April 14, 2022, against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
He has refined himself as a pitcher while rehabbing — coming back from elbow surgery and back surgery — after evaluating pitch shapes and biomechanics with pitching coach Chris Fetter and assistant pitching coach Robin Lund.
As for the next step, the Tigers haven’t determined whether Mize will throw live batting practices at Comerica Park in Detroit, at Triple-A Toledo’s Fifth Third Field in Ohio, or at the spring training facility in Lakeland, Florida, which isn’t far from Mize’s home in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The specific location depends on the date of each live batting practice session.
“It’s all going to be based on where we are and what day it is,” Hinch said. “If it’s a Sunday, we’ll have him do it in Lakeland so that he can do it at noon as opposed to like 9 a.m. for us. … Asking a hitter to come in and stand in for Casey Mize is a little aggressive on a day game.”