DETROIT -- The Tigers include probable pitchers for their upcoming games at the bottom of their pregame notes. The letters “TBA” have loomed over Sunday’s series finale against the Reds for the last couple versions.
Two days out, there’s still no announcement on which pitcher will start that game for Detroit. But if you squint real hard, can you make TBA look like MIZE?
Manager Ron Gardenhire -- who joked earlier this week that he gets in trouble with general manager Al Avila every time he mentions top prospect Casey Mize -- isn’t saying. Even when asked Friday if the Tigers were debating somebody not currently on their 30-man active roster, Gardenhire was coy.
“You can figure it out and do whatever you want,” Gardenhire said on his daily pregame conference with reporters. “We’ll have somebody for you, I can promise you that. We will have [a starter]. We just haven’t decided exactly which way we’re going yet. And there’s a few days here to decide that, and we’re not going to jump the gun on that.”
That was actually the second answer Gardenhire gave on Sunday’s starter during the session. When asked a few minutes earlier if he was prepared to announce a starter, Gardenhire said, "No."
“I can’t announce anything until my general manager makes a statement,” Gardenhire said. “And then we can go from there.”
That was a stronger hint that calling up somebody from the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, is at least an option, if not a decision. If the Tigers were planning on another bullpen start like they did Tuesday behind Rule 5 Draft pick Rony García, they wouldn’t need a statement.
Daniel Norris could also be an option, but Gardenhire indicated a couple days ago that Norris – currently on the 10-day injured list after spending Summer Camp in COVID-19 protocol -- will likely get one more outing in Toledo before he returns.
The countdown on Mize’s arrival has been going ever since Summer Camp, when he made another big impression on team officials on top of a solid Spring Training four months earlier. The Tigers optioned Mize to Toledo at the end of Summer Camp, as expected.
At the time, Avila said service time did not factor into the decision.
“When we feel that our young players are ready to come up and contribute, we’ll bring them up at the right time that we feel they’re ready, and we feel that we have the biggest need,” Avila said last week.
If the Tigers were to call up Mize now and keep him up for the rest of the season, he would not gain a full year of service time. A player must spend 20 days in the Minors in a normal season to not be credited for a full year in the Majors. In this 60-game schedule, that prorates to just under a week. In other words, Mize could join the Tigers rotation, stay there the rest of the season, and still have six seasons to go before potentially hitting free agency.
But in a normal season, Mize would be getting experience pitching in Minor League games. With the Minor League schedule cancelled, he’s pitching in intrasquad games at Toledo, which has been designated as the Tigers’ alternate training site.
One factor that could play into the decision is weather. The forecast for Sunday calls for an 80 percent chance of rain in Detroit, but ending during the afternoon. If the forecast worsens and the chance of a rainout increases, the Tigers might be wary of making a move now -- which would include adding Mize to the 40-man roster -- when they might not need a fifth starter again until next weekend in Pittsburgh.
Travis Demeritte rejoined the Tigers on Friday, the one-year anniversary of his trade to Detroit from Atlanta in the Shane Greene deal. In between, he was an everyday right fielder for much of the stretch run last season, made a strong effort to hold onto his spot with four home runs in Spring Training, spent four months working out during baseball’s shutdown and then saw a quad injury derail his Summer Camp.
He’s looking forward to a new chapter.
Demeritte said he has been seeing live pitching in intrasquad games in Toledo. Though the Tigers don’t have enough position players there to field two squads, Demeritte said coaches there have filled in.
No, that doesn’t mean hitting coach Mike Hessman has been taking swings at the park where he set the Minor League home run record. But, Demeritte said, “He plays a helluva first base.”