Tigers eye pitching prospects as reinforcements
Four SeaWolves will play in Eastern League All-Star Game
DETROIT -- For more than a month, the Tigers have gotten by with a four-man rotation and an occasional fifth starter as needed. They’re nearing the point when that no longer will be a practical option.
Detroit is also nearing the point, coincidentally, when the club hopes to get some badly needed help from some of the pitching prospects it has accumulated over the past four MLB Drafts.
“We’ve got some young pitchers that are just getting back healthy and are a little inconsistent right now, but they’re an option as we go along here,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said before Detroit’s 5-3 loss to Texas on Tuesday night at Comerica Park. “But right now, we haven’t decided on any of them.”
While Detroit's No. 10 prospect Kyle Funkhouser is expected to take the mound Wednesday for Triple-A Toledo, looking to rebound after giving up five runs on eight hits over three innings in his start on Friday, former first-round pick Beau Burrows (No. 6 prospect) is expected to rejoin the Mud Hens’ rotation later this week after tossing nine scoreless innings over two starts for Class A Advanced Lakeland and Double-A Erie in what essentially amounted to a rehab assignment following right shoulder inflammation.
The Tigers have exercised ample patience with their pitching prospects. They are eagerly awaiting the advancement of Funkhouser and Burrows, and the team has made no secret about it.
“My hope is that those two guys get back to Toledo, doing what they're capable of doing,” Detroit general manager Al Avila said earlier this month. “And if that's the case, you'll probably see those two guys at some point up here at the Major League level later in the summer. That is our hope.”
The Tigers have been filling the fifth-starter role on a spot basis with callup Ryan Carpenter and No. 25 prospect Gregory Soto, but those options have provided mixed results at best. Carpenter gave up 11 runs on nine hits over 3 2/3 innings for Triple-A Toledo on Monday, nullifying the momentum created from 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts in his previous outing, on June 19. Soto gave up five runs in as many innings in his start for the Mud Hens on Thursday.
Given Carpenter’s struggles, Soto is the likely candidate to start for Detroit on Saturday. Drew VerHagen, who has a 2.38 ERA in seven starts for the Mud Hens, could also be an option, but he would have to be added back to the 40-man roster.
After an off-day on Monday, the Tigers have six games in five days prior to the All-Star break thanks to a doubleheader against the White Sox, so they’ll need a fifth starter as well as a spot starter. After the All-Star break, Detroit plays 19 games in 20 days before the July 31 Trade Deadline, which could open another rotation spot if it deals Matthew Boyd.
So if the Tigers appear ready to push Funkhouser and Burrows, why wouldn’t they push Matt Manning (Detroit's No. 2 prospect) and Alex Faedo (the Tigers’ No. 9 prospect) from Double-A Erie, you ask? For starters, Detroit values the test that pitching prospects receive from Triple-A hitters, who are generally more experienced and more selective on pitches than their Double-A counterparts. Beyond that, both Funkhouser and Burrows need to be added to the 40-man roster at season’s end anyway, to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Neither Manning nor Faedo have enough time in the Minor Leagues to be eligible.
Four SeaWolves named to Eastern League All-Star Game
Speaking of Manning, the right-hander joins fellow SeaWolves starter Casey Mize (the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect), infielder Isaac Paredes (Detroit's No. 4 prospect) and outfielder Jose Azocar (the Tigers’ No. 29 prospect) as selections for next month’s Eastern League All-Star Game.
The All-Star Game is scheduled for Wednesday, July 10, in Richmond, Va. Mize is on the injured list. Manning and Paredes could also be options to represent the Tigers in the All-Star Futures Game, scheduled for July 7 in Cleveland.
Manning, who was part of last year’s All-Star Futures Game in Washington, leads the Eastern League with 98 strikeouts to go with a 6-4 record and a 2.53 ERA. He has allowed 54 hits over 81 2/3 innings in 14 starts.
Paredes, the top hitter among Detroit’s prospects, entered Tuesday batting .257 with four home runs and 28 RBIs. He has almost as many walks (31) as strikeouts (33), resulting in a .347 on-base percentage and a .709 OPS. Azocar has been a pleasant surprise, batting .293 with 13 doubles, two homers, 25 RBIs and a .725 OPS.
• An MRI exam on Tigers pitching prospect Franklin Perez’s sore right shoulder revealed low-level inflammation but nothing more serious, according to a source. No word yet on the next step for Detroit’s No. 3 prospect, who was placed back on the seven-day injured list after returning from the IL for one start at Class A Advanced Lakeland.
• Triple-A Toledo pitcher Tyler Alexander was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Week after tossing 13 2/3 scoreless innings with 15 strikeouts over two starts for the Mud Hens.
• The Tigers’ clubhouse at Comerica Park was noticeably missing a locker for catcher Grayson Greiner, who is eligible to return from the 10-day injured list but is currently rehabbing. “He’s doing his treatment, and that’s all I know about him,” Gardenhire said. “He was feeling a little better, starting to move around, but he still couldn’t swing consistently.”
• The Tigers announced they’ve signed 14th-round Draft pick Ted Stuka, a right-handed pitcher from UC-San Diego. The team has already signed all of its top 10 selections and 32 of its 40 picks overall.