July 7, 2022

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Faedo becoming Mr. Consistency for Tigers

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PITTSBURGH — Alex Faedo isn’t supposed to be a reliable cog in the Tigers’ rotation — not as a rookie, not with barely any work above Double-A before his arrival, and certainly not coming off Tommy John surgery a year and a half ago.

Rookies make youthful mistakes. Rookie have bad days. Rookies aren’t expected to have consistency. Pitchers just back from Tommy John surgery are expected to be inconsistent. Pitchers just back from surgery aren’t even guaranteed rotation spots.

Faedo is defying all of this. In the process, he has challenged the notion that the former first-round Draft pick might be the lesser developed of the Tigers’ crop of young starters from recent drafts, a group that includes potential All-Star Tarik Skubal and currently injured Casey Mize and Matt Manning.

Faedo made one major mistake in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Pirates at PNC Park, and it cost him the only run he allowed. The changeup that Jack Suwinski sent deep to right field wasn’t necessarily a bad pitch in Faedo’s eyes, but it wasn’t a good pitch with an 0-2 count.

“From my perspective, I didn’t think it was the worst-thrown changeup,” Faedo said. “I thought it was one of my better executed, but I talked to [catcher Eric Haase] about it, and he’s like, ‘Hey, it’s a good changeup, but it’s 0-2. You have plenty of time and pitches to waste. You can try to get your strikeout there.’

“That’s where I need to be more mature and try to get something that looks like it’s in the [strike] zone and goes off.”

That was enough to cost him a chance at a win; the Tigers didn’t pull ahead for good until Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single in the eighth inning. They added on with Daz Cameron’s second RBI hit, a double with two outs in the ninth.

Still, if that’s all Faedo has to regret from his outing, that says a lot about how well he’s doing.

“Once they tied the game, I love how he responded to not having the lead any more,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He hung in there. He won some big at-bats, had plenty left in the tank when I took him out. It’s nice to see him continue to put up good outings.”

The Pirates loaded up on left-handed hitters to nullify Faedo’s slider, yet he allowed just three hits and struck out seven of Pittsburgh’s first 11 hitters. He induced 17 swings and misses, two fewer than Skubal posted in seven innings Tuesday night, and threw five innings of one-run ball.

It’s not flashy, but it’s consistent. Most Major League starters, even rookies, should consider five innings and two runs or fewer to be a reasonable expectation for a good start, even in this time of expanded bullpens.

Putting together a streak of such starts is another thing. More than quality, it’s a challenge of consistency to put together productive outings, whether or not a pitcher has his best stuff on a given day. To do that in seven consecutive starts, as Faedo has done, means getting a productive outing with less than best stuff at least once.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, just three pitchers since 1893 have had seven such outings to begin their Major League career. Faedo is one of them, joining Jered Weaver (2006) and Dave Ferriss (1945). Three others have done it in their first seven big-league starts, not counting relief appearances, including Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

“It’s definitely cool to look back on after the games,” Faedo said. “Not going to overthink it. Just keep trying to do my thing, keep trying to execute and stay ahead of hitters. But it’s obviously cool to see. I think it’s really cool for my family to see. But I think for me, it just lets me know that I’ve been consistent and giving these guys a chance to win.”

The timing is a godsend for Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter, who have leaned on young starters due to injuries and kept pitching as the strength of the club. The 26-year-old Faedo is currently the oldest member of the Tigers’ rotation.

The streak will end at some point. The Tigers are watching Faedo’s innings, much like they did with Skubal and Mize last year, but with added caution because of Faedo’s surgery.

“He’s going to have restrictions, just based on where he’s at and what we’re trying to do with him,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’re asking a lot out of him. He’s responding very well. Physically, he’s in a good place. Mentally, he’s in a good place. We can’t forget that we’re developing a pitcher at this level coming off of major surgery.

“There’s an inning too early that I’m going to take him out from time to time. There’s also other times that I’ve let him go a little bit toward 100 pitches. I just ask him to give us what he’s got, when he’s got it. And he feels good, so why not stay with it?”

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