Why the Detroit Tigers are turning to Joey Wentz to pitch Wednesday (but not start)

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers didn’t pull left-handed reliever Andrew Vasquez until he threw 21 pitches, surrendering six runs while recording one out, in the eighth inning of Sunday’s 17-4 loss to the Houston Astros.

Vasquez suffered an injury in the miserable outing.

The Tigers placed Vasquez on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to Monday, with left calf tightness before Tuesday’s game against the New York Yankees at Comerica Park. The 29-year-old will be evaluated to play catch later in the week.

“We left him out there a little bit trying to get through the game,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday. “He came up a little bit sore. It’s a tough one because you try to work through it. It’s not that big of a deal, but we can’t pitch short. We’ll give him a blow, give him a couple of days, get him back up and running, and then see where it takes us.”

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Vasquez has allowed nine runs (eight earned runs) across six innings in 10 relief appearances since joining the Tigers on Aug. 4, claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies. His poor 10-game stretch, adding up to a 12.00 ERA, includes eight walks and six strikeouts.

The Tigers replaced Vasquez by recalling right-handed reliever Garrett Hill from Triple-A Toledo.

“I would say don’t look at the whole body (of work),” Hinch said. “Recently, he’s been back in the strike zone. He went through a whole rehab process, went down and pitched back through A-ball and came up. It’s better to be in the strike zone.”

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Hill made the Tigers’ Opening Day roster out of spring training but struggled in eight games, with a 9.88 ERA, 13 walks and 14 strikeouts over 13⅔ innings. He has spent most of the season in Triple-A Toledo, logging a 4.54 ERA with 25 walks and 53 strikeouts over 37⅔ innings in 21 games.

The 27-year-old returned from the injured list in mid-August and looked sharp in two outings with the Mud Hens. He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts across five innings.

“He can provide a little bit of length for us,” Hinch said. “We’re pretty thin in the bullpen, so we really wanted someone that we knew we could leave out there for 40, 50 pitches if needed. He’s missing some bats, which is good. He’s throwing more strikes, which is good.”

Matt Manning avoids injured list

Left-hander Joey Wentz arrived Tuesday afternoon at Comerica Park, but right-hander Matt Manning, who suffered a lower back injury in his last start, won’t need a trip to the injured list.

Here’s the plan: Wentz will pitch Wednesday — presumably coming out of the bullpen after a reliever serves as an opener — and Manning will start Thursday. The Tigers need to make another roster move before Wednesday’s game to clear space for Wentz on the 26-man roster.

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By starting Thursday, Manning will receive an extra day of rest between starts.

“I’m glad he feels better,” Hinch said. “It would have been brutal to lose him for a couple of weeks. We didn’t think it was serious when it happened, but we were pretty conservative. I know he wanted to stay in the game, so that was a good sign.”

Wentz has a 6.62 ERA with 35 walks and 77 strikeouts over 84⅓ innings in 19 games (17 starts) with the Tigers. The 25-year-old also has a 4.40 ERA with 12 walks and 37 strikeouts over 28⅔ innings with Triple-A Toledo.

Manning, also 25, has a 3.93 ERA with 18 walks and 45 strikeouts across 71 innings in 13 starts with the Tigers. Injuries have plagued his 2022 and 2023 seasons, but he seemingly dodged a bullet this time around.

“Extra day here doesn’t really impact a ton,” Hinch said. “We’ll give other guys some opportunities. We have an off day on Monday, so he’ll get an extra day for the next time around. I think there’s an off day after that, so another extra day. There’s one of those long road trips where he’ll have to pitch on regular rest, but hopefully, he will have cleared any hurdle of the sore back.”

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who owns a 4.68 ERA in nine starts since July 5, is scheduled to start Friday in the three-game series opener against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

More steps forward for Casey Mize

Right-hander Casey Mize (right elbow sprain, lumbar strain) will throw his second live batting practice session Wednesday at Comerica Park. The 26-year-old threw 20 pitches in his first live batting practice before Saturday’s game.

“He feels great,” Hinch said. “This is the exact plan that we had for him drawn up when he started facing hitters. We’ll get him through that, and then we’ll continue on with our conservative approach. He’s been very diligent. I’m very proud of him.”

Mize could begin a rehab assignment soon, but he isn’t likely to join the Tigers in the 2023 season.

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Prospect update

Double-A Erie right-hander Wilmer Flores started a rehab assignment Tuesday with High-A West Michigan. The 22-year-old last pitched July 20 before landing on the injured list with a right hamstring strain.

Before the injury, Flores posted a 3.93 ERA with 32 walks and 75 strikeouts over 75⅔ innings in 17 starts with the SeaWolves.

Flores is the Tigers’ No. 7 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

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

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