Bevy of first-timers make Tigers' roster

Burrows, Funkhouser among 16 pitchers on 30-man Opening Day crew

July 23rd, 2020

and were in line to join the Tigers’ rotation around this point a year ago, mentioned by general manager Al Avila, when injuries derailed their seasons. As Detroit prepares for the 2020 season, both are getting their shot.

The Tigers on Thursday morning announced their 30-man Opening Day roster, and the makeup reflects the state of the team’s rebuilding effort. Sixteen pitchers will open the season with the club as it tries to sort out the back end of its rotation without Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris, though Norris should be back soon.

Here's a quick look at the roster:

Pitchers (16): , , , Beau Burrows, José Cisnero, , , Kyle Funkhouser, Bryan Garcia, Rony García, , , , , ,

Utility (1):

Nine of Detroit’s 16 pitchers will be on an Opening Day roster for the first time in their career. Three will be on a Major League roster for the first time. Four are currently on the club’s Top 30 Prospects rankings, per MLB Pipeline.

That last category includes Burrows and Funkhouser, who were part of the early wave of the Tigers’ pitching buildup in recent Drafts. Both were among the decisions the Tigers weighed last season as 40-man roster additions. In the end, adding both of them proved important.

Burrows was the first of Detroit’s four consecutive pitchers drafted with first-round picks, selected 22nd overall in the 2015 Draft. His path included 42 starts at Double-A Erie over the last few years, and 15 starts in an injury-shortened season last year at Triple-A Toledo. His Spring Training began with a five-run inning in February against Phillies, which led the Tigers to take him out of game action to work on his pitching mechanics.

“After that outing I had, which was pretty terrible, I went back on the back fields with all the pitching coaches, and it literally clicked in a week,” Burrows said earlier in Summer Camp. “I was back to my old self. I was throwing hard again off the mound. We just kept working on that, trying to repeat it over and over again, and I just took that over to the quarantine time. And it’s been good ever since.”

Burrows looked much better in Summer Camp. He had a rough finish in exhibition play Tuesday at Cincinnati, giving up eighth-inning home runs to Eugenio Suárez and Jesse Winker, but Detroit liked the stuff.

Funkhouser, a fourth-round pick in 2016, threw a scoreless inning of relief in that same game, completing a Summer Camp of major improvement after a rough Spring Training.

“When I went home, I talked to [Triple-A Toledo pitching coach] Juan Nieves and [Tigers director of pitching development] Dan Hubbs a little bit, watched some old video from the college days and the early pro ball days," Funkhouser said Wednesday. "We all kind of felt that my arm action was getting a little too long, so we tried to shorten that up a little bit.”

Agrazal, who made 14 starts for the Pirates last year, joined infielder Jordy Mercer as the only non-roster invites to make the team. While Mercer had been expected to make it, Agrazal was on the bubble. The 25-year-old right-hander gives the Tigers an option to either start next week against the Royals or piggyback on Michael Fulmer’s start.

Other non-roster invites, including Nick Ramirez and Shao-Ching Chiang, were reassigned to the alternate training site in Toledo. Ramirez was a particular surprise, having effectively filled a workhorse role in Detroit’s bullpen last year. That decision reflects the difficulty the Tigers face clearing spots on a 40-man roster that includes several prospects the team doesn’t want to risk losing on waivers.

That said, Detroit will have some decisions to make soon. Norris is expected to begin the season on the COVID-19 injured list as he gets back up to game speed, having just joined Tigers camp Tuesday, but shouldn’t need long. Then there’s Casey Mize, who made one of the biggest impressions of camp but was sent to Toledo last weekend. He’s expected to join Detroit’s rotation at some point this season, and maybe sooner rather than later.