Mize makes cut as Tigers announce rotation

March 22nd, 2024

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Two years after threw his most recent Major League start, the former top overall pick is back in the Tigers rotation. Eight months after throwing 6 2/3 innings in a combined no-hitter, is headed to Triple-A Toledo.

Those were the difficult decisions looming as the Tigers moved to finalize their rotation amid a strong Spring Training competition. Manager A.J. Hinch made the announcement Friday morning before Opening Day starter made his final spring tune-up against the Phillies.

and will follow Skubal in the rotation, making their Tiger debuts next Saturday and Sunday, respectively, at the White Sox. Mize and Reese Olson will start in the next series at the Mets.

It’ll be Mize’s first Major League appearance since April 14, 2022, when he tossed five innings at Kansas City and didn’t have his usual command. He experienced soreness afterward and went on the injured list with an elbow sprain, starting a cycle that culminated with Tommy John surgery on his elbow that summer. He also underwent a procedure to address lingering back issues.

After spending last year rehabbing and eventually pitching in simulated games, Mize returned to game action this spring with a boost in velocity and an uptick in overall arsenal. He allowed four runs on 10 hits over 15 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League play, walking nine and striking out 14. But he finished with 8 2/3 scoreless innings on four hits over his last two starts, walking four and striking out eight, including an impressive outing against a regular Twins lineup a few days ago.

“Casey has held his stuff throughout the spring,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s still got some work to do to be a complete pitcher, but his body of work this spring has been awesome. Obviously his fastball he’s pitching with right now is the best fastball he’s had in his career. He’s still rounding into form with his secondary pitches, but he, of anybody in our camp, took this spring as a complete competition. That was very notable in his work. It was notable in his emotion on the mound, his interactions in the dugout, his game planning. He quickly showed that he was ready to be an option for us.”

Olson came to camp looking to establish his changeup and improve his command coming off an encouraging rookie season. He had some up-and-down results early in camp, including three walks over 1 2/3 innings in his Grapefruit League debut, but he settled down to toss 11 innings of two-run ball with one walk and 11 strikeouts over his last three outings. He’ll pitch in a Minor League game Saturday for his final tuneup.

Manning, coming off a season shortened by two foot injuries, struck out 19 batters over 16 innings overall and induced 35 swinging strikes out of 105 swings in his last four outings. He showed a split-changeup and threw two types of sliders in a five-pitch arsenal. However, six of his eight hits allowed went for home runs. That total was inflated by a bit by hitter-friendly conditions in Florida, including three homers on a windy day against the Pirates on March 9. But in a tight competition, it was a consideration.

"I think the entire rotation competition centered around guys getting better in the offseason, bringing it into the spring and showcasing it," Hinch said. "Obviously, Matt did a great job, so it's more about where Casey is and where Reese is than necessarily [anything] negative [with] Matt. Obviously, he needs to hold his stuff, he needs to control damage a little bit better, but he did a lot of good things. He's the odd man out to start, and the competition continues as we get into April."

Hinch said he told Manning on Friday morning. Before that, Manning sounded upbeat about his spring, except for the homers.

“As soon as we understand this arsenal and how to use it and pair things off each other, then the sky’s the limit,” Manning said. “The bullet slider looks like a heater. Everything looks like a heater out of the hand. It’s just knowing how to pair things off each other.”

The Tigers seem to agree, but that process will take place in Toledo.

“He was professional but frustrated,” Hinch said of the meeting. “This news is hard to deliver. It’s harder to receive. He’s vowed to go and do his part in Triple-A, but he wasn’t happy.”