Tigers president talks prospects and pitching

June 23rd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris talked with reporters Monday at Comerica Park. We covered his remarks on hot-hitting prospect Colt Keith, but he had more to say on the team:

On , who remains on the injured list to focus on his physical and mental health:

“The reports that we have received from Austin are positive. He is working through treatment. He is also working out, and he is in a very healthy environment for him and his progress. We're keeping tabs on them. We're rooting like hell for him. That's about all I can share right now.”

On starting pitching and bullpen games:

“We have seven starting pitchers on the injured list right now. That's tough to overcome for any team. That's not an excuse. It's an observation. The blessing in all of that is it's giving more opportunities to some players who wouldn't necessarily have that opportunity if all of our talented starters were healthy right now. ... I understand going into a series when you see a bullpen game, it seems like the team is conceding something. It looks a little weird when you see a reliever's name populated in the starting pitching column, but we're not conceding anything when we run a bullpen game. We think that running a 'pen game with a bullpen that can pound the zone from a variety of looks can give us a matchup advantage against certain lineups. … In fact, even when we're healthy, I wouldn't be surprised if we dropped in a 'pen game from time to time to give us a matchup advantage and then also to give our five starters an extra day before the next turn.”

On ’s struggles:

“So in our jobs, one thing that is helpful is that we don't just go based on the outcomes that we see every night. We get an opportunity to see the work behind the scenes. We get an opportunity to see the adjustments that are [being made] in the cage. We get to see them work their tail off in the gym. And we get to meet with them on some of the adjustments that that they're making. Specifically with Nick, he's working through it right now. He is adjusting back to what the league is doing to him, and there are some nights where you can see a lot of progress, and there are some nights where it's difficult for him. He's still a young hitter. He still doesn't have quite the body of work at this level to suggest that he's going to be as consistent of a performer as we think he's going to be in the future. As long as the work looks good and as long as he continues to show some of those adjustments at the plate, we're going to give him some runway.”

On the team philosophy of dominating the strike zone:

“On the pitching side, we've done a really good job of putting pressure on hitters. I think we have the lowest walk rate of any bullpen in the [American League] right now. Our rotation is banged up, as we've talked about, but we have guys that are stepping up and we're excited to see what it looks like when we get healthy. On the offensive side, our topline performance as a whole is not where we want it to be. I think part of that is due to us missing some key bats that should be hitting in the middle of our order, at the top of our order. Part of it is that some players are just not performing to the level that they would want to be right now. However, if you look under the hood at some of the things we're doing offensively, I think there are some important notes. We're walking more than we did last year. We are making more contact than we did last year. We are hitting the ball hard a lot more frequently than we did last year. We are lifting the ball more frequently than we did last year. And we're seeing a lot more pitches than we did last year. Again, our offense is not where we want to be as a whole, but those are some positive trend lines that are predictive of future performance.”