Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila met Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Isaac Paredes for the first time as MLB players Sunday on a plane headed to Chicago.
That’s when manager Ron Gardenhire got his first look, too.
“They’re excited,” Avila said. “But just their reaction with us on the airplane, just like what (vice president of player development Dave) Littlefield described when he called them, very calm, cool and collect, and very professional. It tells you about their demeanor.”
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Paredes, a third baseman, will be the first to debut, as Avila hinted Gardenhire is going to start him Monday against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. He will be followed by the left-handed Skubal’s start on the mound Tuesday and the right-handed Mize’s outing Wednesday.
Detroit’s rotation now consists of Mize, Skubal, left-hander Matthew Boyd and righties Spencer Turnbull and Michael Fulmer. Avila said Fulmer, recovering from Tommy John surgery, may begin to go further than three innings if his pitch count allows.
The Tigers (9-10) have lost five consecutive games.
“There’s a lot of things that went into this,” said Avila. “No. 1, obviously, we have the greatest need right now, but more importantly, we felt that both pitchers are ready to pitch at this time.”
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Avila wants Mize, Skubal and Paredes to remain with Detroit for the remainder of the 2020 season unless their performance indicates they need to return to the reserve squad at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, where they’ve been since summer camp broke in late July.
“When we bring these guys up, we want them up to stay,” Avila said. “So we’ll see how it works out.”
Here’s a look at each prospect:
2019 stats: 8-3, 21 games, 109⅓ innings pitched, 2.55 ERA, 0.942 WHIP, 106 strikeouts, 23 walks between High-A and Double-A.
Organization ranking: No. 2.
Acquired: 2018 draft (first round, No. 1 overall).
As the top pick from two years ago, Mize is the anticipated franchise cornerstone.
Because spring training was cut short due to COVID-19, halting baseball for nearly four months, the Tigers didn’t want to push Mize too much. He was held back for the beginning of the season to build up his pitch count, extend his innings and develop his pitch selection.
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In summer camp, he struck out Miguel Cabrera (and many others) on three pitches and earned rave reviews at each turn in the organization.
Avila wouldn’t say if he considered calling on Mize earlier, but he realized he needed him after unsightly starting pitching performances from Boyd (10.24 ERA), Fulmer (7.56 ERA), right-hander Ivan Nova (8.53 ERA) and opener roles from relievers Tyler Alexander, Rony Garcia and Daniel Norris.
“We went through the players and pitchers we had at the big-league level, trying to see what they can do at that point,” Avila said. “Because of, obviously, some circumstances and the additional month of work these guys have put in, I would say (they’re) more ready now than it was several weeks ago. It’s the proper time.”
2019 stats: 6-8, 24 G, 122⅔ IP, 3.08 ERA, 1.011 WHIP, 179 K, 37 BB between High-A and Double-A.
Organization ranking: No. 5.
Acquired: 2018 draft (ninth round, No. 255 overall).
Because Skubal missed summer camp with a positive COVID-19 test, the Tigers hadn’t seen him throw live much between an abbreviated spring training and his arrival in Toledo.
The best-case scenario, Avila said, would have been to give him more time with the reserve squad to increase his pitch-count range.
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But based on the recent injury to Nova, combined with reports on Skubal from the alternate training site, Avila needed him now.
“As far as his overall health and overall stuff – control and command – he’s been spot…