Tigers shut down healthy Mize for rest of year

August 21st, 2019

Casey Mize’s first full professional season is over. The Tigers have decided to shut down their top prospect with just under two weeks left in the season for Double-A Erie.

“We've made the decision after review and talking to Casey that we're going to skip his next three starts to end the season,” Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said on Wednesday.

The decision was not medical, Littlefield said. Mize has not seen a doctor since his last outing on Saturday in Erie, and he is not scheduled for a visit. He’ll stay with the SeaWolves for the stretch run of their playoff drive and is expected to take part in the Tigers’ instructional league when it begins on Sept. 13. Mize will be cleared to have a normal offseason workout program from there.

Nor was Mize reaching a hard innings limit; his four-week stint on the injured list earlier this summer for shoulder inflammation eased his workload.

But after Mize’s recent performances, including six runs over 4 2/3 innings on Aug. 11 at New Hampshire and a taxing sixth inning last Saturday against Akron, Tigers officials met and decided not to push their prized right-hander any further.

“It's simply that he's done so well this year and basically as we see and evaluate it and look at it from all different ends, the time was right to shut him down,” Littlefield said. “It wasn't any one thing. He wanted to pitch. We love that part of it. But we have to keep in mind it's his first pro season. …

“For a guy that's in his first full season that has experienced what professional baseball demands, especially coming into Major League camp, it's not one thing in particular, but the whole body of work.”

The Tigers had a slew of evaluators in Erie last weekend watching Mize and fellow top pitching prospect Tarik Skubal. Baseball operations and pro scouting director Sam Menzin was at UPMC Park for Mize’s start along with special assistants and veteran scouts Dick Egan and Mike Russell. So was organizational pitching coordinator A.J. Sager.

While Mize delivered a quality start on Saturday, his fastball topped out at 94 mph on the stadium radar gun. He was taxed for 24 pitches in his final inning, including back-to-back two-out walks in which he just missed on a pair of 3-2 pitches he believed were in spots that were called strikes earlier in the game. Mize finished the inning when left fielder Cam Gibson threw out a runner at the plate.

“I’ve felt pretty fresh,” Mize said after the outing. “I felt really good throughout the whole year. Maybe that time off was a reason for that. I’ve felt good coming back.”

The opinion of some scouts in attendance was that Mize was good, but not as crisp as he was earlier in the year.

“You saw it, and we're talking to our scouts,” Littlefield said. “You take all these factors into account when making a decision like this.”

Of course, when Mize began his Double-A tenure with a no-hitter, his standards changed.

The 22-year-old Mize finishes his first full pro season with an 8-3 record and 2.55 ERA over 21 starts, including 6-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts at Erie. He allowed just 69 hits, including five home runs, over 78 2/3 innings while walking 18 and striking out 76.

In six starts since returning to Erie from the injured list, however, Mize went 0-3 with a 7.09 ERA, allowing 34 hits over 26 2/3 innings with seven walks and 26 strikeouts. He basically alternated quality starts with rough outings.

Part of that might be the result of an unbalanced schedule that pits Mize against different lineups down the stretch. Part, too, might be the adjustments of hitters who became more aggressive facing Mize as the year went on, looking to hit the first pitch of an at-bat rather than let him work ahead.

“I’ve said this a million times: This is his first time ever pitching on four days’ rest,” Erie manager Mike Rabelo said after Saturday’s outing. “And when it’s all said and done, he’s put together a pretty good year.”