KANSAS CITY — The Tigers have overcome injuries up and down their roster already this season, in large part because their core has stayed intact. When Casey Mize woke up Friday morning feeling extra soreness after his start against the Royals on Thursday night, they had a bigger concern.
The Tigers placed Mize on the 10-day injured list Friday with a right elbow sprain. For now, it’s a combination of extra precaution and roster maneuvering. They knew Mize would need to miss at least one start while they check for structural damage, and they already had a short roster thanks to day-to-day injuries to Robbie Grossman (right groin tightness) and Javier Báez (right thumb soreness). By moving Mize to the injured list, Detroit could call up outfielder Daz Cameron, who was already with the team as a taxi squad member.
Still, any move involving the Tigers’ young starters is a concern. Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning comprise much more than just 60 percent of Detroit’s rotation. They’re at the heart of the team’s effort to build around young talent. Even with Spencer Torkelson’s arrival and the signings of veterans Báez and Eduardo Rodriguez, the success of this team — short-term and long-term — is most closely tied to the development of their young starters.
This is the first major injury concern to strike this trio, but starting prospects Joey Wentz and Alex Faedo — who were part of a stacked Double-A Erie rotation with the three in 2019 — both underwent Tommy John surgery. Wentz returned to action last year and is now in the rotation at Triple-A Toledo with hopes of making his Major League debut this season. Faedo has made two appearances, including his first post-surgery start Friday at Single-A Lakeland, as he ramps up towards eventually joining Wentz in Toledo.
Mize didn’t want to get into level-of-concern questions when asked after Friday’s 2-1 win.
“It’s something I’m going to leave up to the doctors and trainers that are going to take a look at that,” he said. “I don’t really want to play the what-if game. I think that’s a bad place to be in. We’ll have more answers in the next couple days. Just trying to wait until then, honestly.”
Mize gave up two runs on six hits over five innings in a no-decision Thursday, walking two and striking out two. His average fastball velocity was the same as in his previous start last Saturday against the White Sox, but he didn’t have his usual command. He has struggled to put hitters away in both of his starts this spring, reflected in his four strikeouts over 10 innings so far this season.
This came after a strong but short Spring Training for Mize, who had followed a detailed offseason throwing program to be ready for it. That’s what makes the issue “really frustrating” for him.
“I take care of myself really well and worked really hard to try to avoid this,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s the nature of our game. This happens. But it’s definitely not fun when you can’t contribute. I care about providing value and contributing, and the next 10 days is not going to be fun.”
Mize admitted being “super vague” because he didn’t want to delve into specifics. However, he said the soreness he felt Friday morning — and again playing catch Friday afternoon — wasn’t anything he felt during his start Thursday.
“Casey came in and talked about his arm being sore,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He played his normal catch, didn’t really want to extend to long-toss like he normally does. We had the team doctor from the Royals come over and evaluate him. And once we determined he wasn’t going to make his next start, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a full roster.”
Mize will undergo more tests this weekend in Kansas City before being evaluated further by Tigers doctors in Detroit early next week.
Mize would’ve been on track to start next Wednesday against the Yankees at Comerica Park. The Tigers’ upcoming off-day Monday provides a chance to start others like Skubal and Manning on regular rest if need be. But the Tigers are also waiting on starter Michael Pineda, who has made two starts for Toledo as he ramps up his innings following his mid-March signing.
Pineda allowed four runs on six hits in three-plus innings for the Mud Hens on Tuesday. He’s scheduled to start again for Toledo on Sunday, but Hinch acknowledged he might be scratched to keep him available for a potential start in Detroit next week.