Tigers tab Iowa's Lund as pitching assistant

November 6th, 2022

DETROIT -- For the second time in as many years, the Tigers have tapped into the Big Ten coaching ranks to look for ideas on helping their pitchers. This time, the club is hiring University of Iowa pitching coach Robin Lund to work as an assistant under Detroit pitching coach Chris Fetter.

The hiring of Lund comes almost exactly two years after manager A.J. Hinch wooed Fetter from the college ranks to leave the University of Michigan. Fetter has helped modernize the Tigers’ pitching instruction and development since then. Lund fits into that plan with a unique skill set, having earned a doctorate in exercise science and spending 16 years as an associate professor teaching kinesiology at the University of Northern Iowa, and researching athletic performance before moving into coaching full time.

Lund spent the past four seasons at Iowa, working with hitters and outfielders in 2019 before transferring to the pitching side the following season. His work saw the Hawkeyes produce two Big Ten Pitchers of the Year, including Adam Mazur last spring, and seven pitchers who went on to pitch in Major League organizations over the last two seasons.

Four Iowa pitchers were drafted earlier this year, led by Mazur to the Padres in the second round. Another signed as an undrafted free agent.

The Hawkeyes’ pitching staff ranked second nationally with 6.88 hits allowed per nine innings this past season, third with an 11.2 K/9, fourth with a 3.72 ERA and 11th with a 1.29 WHIP. The staff dominated the conference in most pitching categories.

Mazur’s emergence was a particular example of Lund’s work. Mazur was a transfer from South Dakota State who worked with Lund to transform his body and his mechanics to raise his fastball velocity and improve his spin efficiency.

As Mazur told The Athletic in July, “I don’t think there could have been a more perfect person for me to learn from than Robin. With him having a PhD and having a teaching background, it really helped me learn because he was able to explain things in many different ways. If I wasn’t understanding the first way, he was explaining it.”

Lund’s sports science expertise could be a fascinating development in a Tigers organization that was plagued by pitching injuries at the Major League level in 2022. Casey Mize will miss most or all of next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this past summer. Tarik Skubal is expected to miss part of next season rehabbing from surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his left forearm.

Matt Manning was limited to 12 starts for Detroit between shoulder and forearm issues that required multiple stints on the injured list. Alex Faedo returned from Tommy John surgery, but he made just 12 starts for the Tigers before undergoing season-ending hip surgery. Kyle Funkhouser is trying to come back from shoulder surgery and hasn’t pitched since 2021. Spencer Turnbull is expected to return from Tommy John surgery next spring.

Lund will be the third member of the coaching staff focused on pitching. In addition to Fetter, Juan Nieves is back as a pitching coach. Hinch hinted during his season-ending media session the club was looking for creative ways to tweak the coaching group, and that may result in an expanded staff.

“I do believe in trying to find various backgrounds, various specialties,” Hinch said. “I like [how] some played, some didn’t play, some are on the analytical side, some are on the more traditional side. I think the balance of a staff needs to have a lot of different voices to come from different ways. That’s more important than number of voices. But I think we have an opportunity to build something interesting and good for the players.”