Detroit Tigers’ Casey Mize might throw; Austin Meadows reports
Right-handed starter Casey Mize is preparing to initiate a throwing program for the second time since the Detroit Tigers placed him on the injured list April 15 with a right elbow sprain.
The plan is for Mize, the 2018 No. 1 overall pick, to begin his throwing program this weekend or early next week. The first step is playing catch at 60 feet, so the Tigers aren’t sure when he could start a rehab assignment.
“He has reported that he’s felt as best as he’s felt so far,” manager AJ Hinch said Thursday, after disclosing that righty starter Matt Manning, after suffering a new injury, won’t pitch for the foreseeable future. “That’s a good sign.”
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For now, Mize is throwing soft-shell plyo balls in the training room.
The Tigers sent Mize to back to Lakeland, Florida — home of the Tigers’ spring training facility — in mid-May to continue the earlier portion of his rehabilitation. The 25-year-old hasn’t pitched in a game since his May 10 rehab start for Triple-A Toledo.
Mize failed to record three outs, allowing three runs on four hits and throwing 16 of 29 pitches for strikes. He couldn’t “go full throttle in bullpens or competition,” Hinch said May 14, so the Tigers did not allow him to make a second start for the Mud Hens.
“We’re going to slow him down a little bit,” Hinch said May 14. “We’re treating the symptoms.”
Before the elbow injury, Mize made two starts for the Tigers. He posted a 5.40 ERA with two walks and four strikeouts in 10 innings.
Left-handed starter Tyler Alexander is trending in the right direction.
Hinch said Alexander completed “a good two innings” in live batting practice Thursday in Lakeland. After throwing a bullpen, the 27-year-old will start Monday for Triple-A Toledo.
The Mud Hens are playing the Guardians’ affiliate, Columbus in Ohio.
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The Tigers sent Alexander to the injured list May 2 with a left elbow sprain. He picked up four starts before he was sidelined, registering an 8.76 ERA with five walks and nine strikeouts in 12⅓ innings.
Outfielder Austin Meadows, acquired three days before Opening Day from the Tampa Bay Rays, went to the injured list May 15 because of vertigo. He previously dealt with a non-COVID illness and an inner-ear issue.
The 27-year-old reported to Lakeland on Tuesday for the first time since joining the injured list.
“It’s his third day in a row doing physical activities, hitting off the high-velocity machine in the (batting) cage,” Hinch said. “He did a little bit of running today on the turf field. Simulate a little bit of a spring training day. That’s a good sign. That’s the most activity he’s done with no symptoms to date.”
Meadows anchored the Tigers’ offense through 28 games, hitting .267 with four doubles, two triples, 11 RBIs, 12 walks and 14 strikeouts. He hit 27 home runs last season for the Rays and was an AL All-Star in 2019.
Also in Lakeland, outfielder Victor Reyes (right quad strain) and right-handed reliever Jose Cisnero (right shoulder strain) are making progress. Reyes is running on flat ground, while Cisnero is throwing bullpens.
Left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez played catch Thursday at Comerica Park, throwing in the 60-90 foot range. The Tigers put him on the injured list May 22 with a left ribcage sprain.
Rodriguez did not report any symptoms.
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The 29-year-old must complete full-speed throws at 120-150 feet — an activity called pulldowns — before the Tigers clear him to pitch off the mound. He exited his May 18 start with one out in the first inning due to the left-side injury.
“Once he gets on the mound,” Hinch said, “we can pick up the pace pretty quickly, because of the limited time that he’s been down, he can jump right back into volume.”
Rodriguez, signed to a five-year, $77 million contract in November, has logged eight starts this season. He owns a 4.38 ERA with 17 walks and 34 strikeouts across 39 innings.
A positive COVID-19 test sent right-handed reliever Will Vest to the injured list May 20, but he has since produced back-to-back negative tests. Those results, along with no symptoms, allowed him to return to the Tigers’ clubhouse.
He needs to wear a face mask until Monday.
“Now he’s got to slowly build himself back up,” Hinch said. “He’s going to do a little bit of throw work today. We don’t have an extended period of time, but we do have the opportunity for five or six days to get him back on his feet, get him into a rehab game in Toledo before we will reinstate him.”
Vest is expected to appear in either one or two rehab games for the Mud Hens. Whether he needs one or two outings depends on how he responds to jumpstarting his throwing Thursday and Friday.
The 26-year-old has been one of the Tigers’ best relievers this season, with a 2.12 ERA, four walks and 22 strikeouts over 17 innings in 14 games out of the bullpen. He notched his first MLB save May 13.
“He was able to play catch twice with a wall, so it’s not technically playing catch,” Hinch said. “But he was able to throw, so hopefully he’s not too far behind. Now I worry about oblique issues, worried about the shoulder, worried about hammies, groins, everything because he’s been shut down.”
Joey Wentz, a left-handed pitching prospect, exited Wednesday’s start for Triple-A Toledo after his third pitch in the third inning. The 24-year-old was drilled in the shin by a comebacker, which ended his performance at 52 pitches.
The good news: Wentz will not miss a start.
“X-rays negative,” Hinch said. “Everything was fine. He’s cleared to do whatever.”
Wentz, who made his MLB debut May 11, is a candidate to join the Tigers as the 27th player in order to start one of the games in Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park.
He is the Tigers’ No. 11 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
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