The last time Casey Mize had watched a Major League game from the stands, he was at Comerica Park with his future wife and family, having just signed his contract after becoming the first overall pick in the 2018 Draft. He was a celebrity in the crowd, and there was a moment of recognition for him.
Two years later, Mize enjoyed his first day in the big leagues (he’s officially on the taxi squad until his start Wednesday) watching Monday’s Tigers-White Sox game from the stands at Guaranteed Rate Field with fellow callup Tarik Skubal. There were no adoring fans around them, no atmosphere, just two pitchers talking about their upcoming Major League debuts and the hitters they’ll be facing.
“I think it was a good thing to be able to watch the game and see what those guys look like in the box,” Mize said, “just so when I step up there it's not as foreign, learn some of their approaches and maybe learn some tendencies or things like that. Skoob and I were up there talking about how he can handle certain hitters and how I can handle certain hitters. I think it was pretty beneficial to be able to watch the game from the stands."
Mize said he can’t wait for the world to see what Skubal can do. The next night, the world will see what to expect from Mize, but he says he isn’t nervous about it.
“I always expect myself to put this team in a position to win, and that's what I'm going to try to do,” Mize said. “But I'm also going to have a lot of fun.”
Mize’s debut will come a year and two days since his last regular-season outing at Double-A Erie. He has learned a lot about patience since then, from the Tigers’ decision a few days later to shut him down, to the coronavirus shutdown that ended his breakthrough Spring Training, to his wait for the call over the last few weeks.
“Obviously the goal after I got drafted was to get to the big leagues as quickly as possible and stay here for a long time,” Mize said. “With everything that happened, through the craziness, there was a lot of opportunity that arose. I felt like I could’ve helped out, but what else could I do other than work really hard and continue to perform well? I knew my day would come, and so that’s all I did, and I’m here now. I’m pretty happy about that.”
Asked what he expects from himself on Wednesday, Mize said, “I always expect myself to put this team in a position to win, so that's what I'm going to try to do. But I expect I'm going to have a lot of fun. That's really what I'm going to challenge myself to do, to enjoy the moment, be where my feet are, and just realize that everything I've worked for is happening currently. Try to enjoy it, and try to win a ballgame.”
His family will be enjoying it with him, just not at the ballpark. His parents, brother and in-laws are flying to Chicago for the occasion, but they’ll be watching from the hotel with his wife, who also made the trip.
“They just wanted to be in the same city and be near me,” he said.
Boyd sees signs of improvement
Left-hander Matthew Boyd promised fans he would continue to work and get better from his thumping against the White Sox last week at Comerica Park. For his first couple innings Monday night in Chicago, it looked eerily similar -- back-to-back home runs to start the game, struggles against White Sox leadoff hitter Tim Anderson, back-to-back 33-pitch innings and a struggle to find an effective pitch besides his fastball and slider.
Then came his last couple innings. Boyd retired his final seven batters, four by strikeout. He started mixing in his changeup for swings and misses, and he tried again to flip in a couple curveballs to begin at-bats.
“He didn’t hardly use the changeup at all. That’s kind of the problem early in the game,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And then he brought it in the last couple innings and the changeup was going down and he had some success. I don’t really know where that was going, but when [pitching coach Rick Anderson] talked to him about it, that’s what they did. And once he started throwing that changeup, all of a sudden he started getting people out. Just can’t forget about pitches like that.”
In that stretch, he sees building blocks as he tries to get back to the form he enjoyed for much of last summer.
“There's a lot of progress in there if you look in the right spots,” he said after the 7-2 loss. “We're going to continue to get better. I'm working every day at it. Today was a step in the right direction.”
The changeup became effective, Boyd said, because he established his fastball leading into it. His fastball and slider command improved because he stuck with his posture.
“I think if you look at the swings and misses on the slider and the changeup, and the lack of hard contact on [the fastball] after the first two hitters, it kind of tells you what everything was doing,” Boyd said. “Something we really worked on was staying behind the baseball and through it. The product of that was what you saw.
“There was a lot of good. It wasn’t good enough to win the ballgame, but I’m telling you, we’re getting better every single day. Mark my words, it’s going to be better than before.”
• Niko Goodrum returned to the Tigers' lineup Tuesday after leaving Sunday’s game early with upper back tightness. Willi Castro received a day off after five consecutive starts following his callup last week. He’s in an 0-for-12 slump that includes a strikeout in each of his last seven at-bats.
“The kid’s doing fine; he had a little bit of a rough night last night,” Gardenhire said.
• With Goodrum back, JaCoby Jones moved to the seventh spot in the order rather than his old spot.
“I was pretty comfortable with him batting ninth all the time,” Gardenhire said. “It’s just because of some of the things that happened to our lineup and some of the injuries, we’ve just moved him around for a day or two.”
• Former Tigers infielder Jordy Mercer, who became a free agent after the team outrighted him last week, signed a Minor League contract with the Yankees on Tuesday. He reported to their alternate training site.