ST. PETERSBURG — Having grown up not far from Tropicana Field and often watching games there with family, Tigers starter Alex Faedo was born into baseball. His father, Landy, is a successful long-time high school baseball coach in the Tampa area, and from youth on, Faedo had a front-row seat to countless talents that passed through the area.
On Monday night at the Trop, it was the Faedo family that had front-row seats to watch their beloved make his third Major League start and first at the familiar confines.
The Tigers’ No. 16 prospect per MLB Pipeline and 18th overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft kept his nerves in check and looked right at home on the mound, tossing a career-high 5 2/3 innings as part of a 3-2 Tigers win. The University of Florida grad didn’t factor into the decision, but he looked poised and polished in the high-pressure situation in front of friends and family and kept his team in the ballgame.
“It was a dream come true, for sure,” Faedo said. “I’ve been to a ton of games here. I felt like I could hear the support in the crowd, and that’s cool being on the road, but it’s home, too, at the same time. It’s a really special moment.”
Faedo allowed four hits, one earned run, one walk, and struck out four while throwing 83 pitches. His only real jam came in the sixth, when Brett Phillips hit a leadoff home run to bring the Rays to within 2-1, and Randy Arozarena singled with two outs to bring lefty Ji-Man Choi to the plate, ending Faedo’s night.
“He was really good,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “He was efficient. They were aggressive on him like we knew they would be. He made quality pitches early and then mixed up his pitches as the outing went along. His fastball got better as the outing went on.”
Faedo, who spent last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, had all three of his pitches in rotation and worked to keep hitters off-balance.
“I thought [my fastball command] was decent,” Faedo said. “Overall, my execution was good and my misses weren’t over the heart of the plate, which is a huge thing. I was happy with how everything felt today.”
While Faedo worked to keep his composure on the mound, surely his family attempted to do the same while taking in the action. Faedo’s father said the stands were littered with supporters.
“[I’m] just real proud,” Landy Faedo told Bally Sports Detroit. “All the hard work that he’s put in and being dedicated to the game and being a great person and teammate, it just makes you proud as a dad.”
“I never sensed one ounce of nerves,” Hinch said, including in Faedo’s Major League debut earlier this month. “He’s just flat line ready to compete and ready to play.”
Tigers catcher Tucker Barnhart had high praise for the 26-year-old who very well could see additional starts in the rotation due to numerous injuries on Detroit’s pitching staff.
“What I saw was a guy who wasn’t afraid to compete in the strike zone right away from the first pitch of the game,” Barnhart said. “It’s so awesome to see a guy that early in his career facing a good lineup in a relatively tough place to play, to pitch the way he did.”
The game was scoreless until the fourth inning when Jonathan Schoop, who made a great defensive play in the second to cut down a runner at third with nobody out, blasted a two-run homer that traveled 404 feet at 105.5 mph.
The Rays tied the game in the eighth on Wander Franco’s sac fly before Harold Castro hit a 400-foot shot to put Detroit back on top in the ninth. The utility man followed up his three-hit, two-RBI game on Sunday by blasting the eventual game-winner — a shot he admired and celebrated with a bat flip.
“It felt great. It felt amazing,” Castro said. “I knew it [was gone].”
Gregory Soto picked up his sixth save of the year around a Kevin Kiermaier single.
Rays manager Kevin Cash, who was coached by Landy Faedo at Gaither High in Tampa and worked out with him at Alonso High toward the end of his MLB career, praised the young man who would often watch Cash work out with his father.
“[Alex Faedo] did a nice job. He did a really nice job,” Cash said. “It had to be a special moment for him. [He] mixed his pitches well. He’s able to pitch with his offspeed stuff behind in the count. He did a really nice job.”