DETROIT — The journey had to feel like forever for Alex Faedo, from the 2017 Draft to the mound at Comerica Park, with Tommy John surgery and two lost Minor League seasons in between. And yet, the last wait was the toughest.
He’d had just 24 hours notice from the time Triple-A Toledo manager Lloyd McClendon told him Tuesday afternoon that his next start would be in the Major Leagues on Wednesday afternoon. It was barely enough time for Faedo to get his parents to Detroit and adjust his game plan from the Worcester Red Sox to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He went to bed early Tuesday night, he said, so he could make sure he got his usual eight hours of sleep.
But before he could start Game 2 of the Tigers’ doubleheader, he needed Game 1 to end.
“The first game was a pretty quick game, but for me it felt like it was taking forever,” Faedo said. “I just wanted to get out there.”
Said manager A.J. Hinch: “He really wanted the game to start, but that’s to be expected of a guy with his journey.”
He finally got through the wait and delivered five innings of two-run ball, though the Tigers’ 7-2 loss to the Pirates left them with a doubleheader split for their brief return home.
The pitching debuts are almost becoming old hat for the Tigers by now. They went through it with Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal in 2020, with Matt Manning last year, and with Beau Brieske last month. They’ll likely go through it again this season with fellow prospect Joey Wentz and maybe others. It’s out of necessity.
“One of the benefits of how our roster is, is that we have some good young pitching waiting in Triple-A for an opportunity. This is the first opportunity,” Hinch said Wednesday. “Alex gets it. … You’ll probably see a handful of pitchers be used to fill these rotation spots until Casey and Matt are ready to go.
“I’m not sure what’s the right time, when’s the right time. Are they ready? I don’t know, but I think the opportunity is there for them to come up and pitch well and make a statement on being part of the summer plans.”
Unexpectedly, the opportunities come from injuries to Mize (elbow sprain) and Manning (shoulder discomfort), plus Tyler Alexander (elbow sprain). The Tigers had Faedo and Wentz in their plans to debut this season, but not quite so early, much like with Manning last summer.
Now, Faedo is part of the effort to help the Tigers keep this season together.
“To say that we expected to use Beau Brieske at this point, Alex Faedo at this point, Elvin Rodriguez made our team, that would be a pretty aggressive prediction if anybody was to say that,” Hinch said. “That being said, it is what it is, and our guys need to step up and pitch well and give us a chance to win.”
Faedo did his part, nerves and all, while showing glimpses of the potential the Tigers saw in him before his elbow surgery. He wanted to trust his changeup, and he used it to get an inning-ending ground ball from slugger Daniel Vogelbach in the first, fielded deftly by Javier Báez — who turned heads with his defense in Game 1, too. Spencer Torkelson scooped the throw at first for the out, then flipped the ball to Faedo for a keepsake on their way to the dugout.
“Ton of balls off the bat where I was like, ‘Aw crap, that’s a hit,’ and then these guys are diving,” Faedo said. “They played a really good game out there. I felt like I was complimenting them every other pitch.”
Faedo hung some sliders, but also buried some. He used one to fan Roberto Pérez for his first big-league strikeout, stranding a runner in the second inning. Catcher Eric Haase saved the ball and handed it to him on his way back.
“I was happy we were able to use three pitches,” Faedo said. “That’s been a big thing, trying to throw changeups to lefties and righties. I feel really confident with that.”
Pérez got his revenge in the fourth inning on a poorly located fastball, after back-to-back singles set up Pittsburgh’s first run in the third.
Still, for a pitcher making just his fifth outing after surgery, his fifth appearance since 2019, and his second game above the Double-A level, it was impressive. He’ll follow the team to Houston as part of the taxi squad so he can prepare for another start, likely during next Tuesday’s doubleheader against Oakland at Comerica Park.
Wednesday was the first of three doubleheaders the Tigers are scheduled for this month, as they’re slated to play 35 games in 33 days. Much like the Tigers needed Manning last year, calling him up early out of necessity, they need Faedo now, and the other prospects, too.
Faedo showed signs he’s ready.
“Super proud of Alex’s effort,” Hinch said.