Detroit Tigers right-hander Casey Mize shined in his big-league debut.
Anticipated as the franchise’s future ace since being selected No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft, Mize got his chance Wednesday against the red-hot Chicago White Sox to show he belongs.
“It’s nice to see him up here in the big leagues now,” manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday. “We’ve got to get him in a routine of every fifth day, and we’ll see how he does the rest of the way. All we know is that the kid is a really special talent.”
Mize pitched 4⅓ innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts. He became the first Tigers pitcher with at least seven strikeouts and no walks in his debut. Of his three runs, two came in the fifth inning, when he was chased after 73 total pitches.
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[ Our biggest takeaways from Casey Mize’s strong Detroit Tigers debut ]
Free Press sports writer Evan Petzold grades Mize’s MLB debut after Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field:
Mize hit his spots and was solid despite a couple of misfires. He painted the corners in the first inning, producing swinging strikeouts of Yoan Moncada on a perfectly placed splitter
and Eloy Jimenez with an outside cutter. He toyed with Tim Anderson in the third inning, one of the best hitters in the league, by jamming him with a 94 mph fastball before coming back with an 87 mph splitter to punch him out swinging.
The way Mize pitched to slugger Edwin Encarnacion proved he is able to adjust against veterans. After hanging a curveball in the second inning to Encarnacion – a 415-foot “welcome to the big leagues” home run – Mize attacked him in the fourth, putting two fastballs in the strike zone – one for a foul ball, another for a swinging strike. While Encarnacion waited for a splitter to break, Mize adjusted and sent him a slider that broke well outside of the zone. Encarnacion couldn’t counter quick enough, forcing an ugly swing for a three-pitch strikeout.
In the fifth inning, he missed on a couple of splitters, which ended up costing him the lead and led to his removal from the game.
Mize’s thoughts:”The splitter, I was really commanding that well and getting what I wanted out of that. And then the fifth came around, and I left one up to (Zack) Collins (for a double). I think he swings through that if I locate it down and bury that like I had been doing all game. Thpletely changes the inning. I really hate that I left that up to him. To Moncada, it was a 3-2 splitter. Looking back, hindsight 20-20, there’s a base open. I probably should have taken my chances to bury that one. But I really didn’t want to walk him, so I tried to throw it for a strike, and I did. He ended up hitting it and driving in a run. Like I said, hindsight 20-20, I wish I could’ve buried both of those, and (then) I think the inning is a lot different.”
As expected, Mize used his splitter as his strikeout pitch.
The splitter generated 14 swings: six whiffs, five balls in play and three fouls. Because the splitter drops out of the strike zone, he didn’t get any called strikes, but that’s expected. However, his slider impressed with six called strikes and three whiffs.
This was Mize’s 73-pitch breakdown from his debut: 25 fastballs, 20 sliders/cutters, 19 splitters and nine curveballs. Being able to turn to three pitches in high-pressure situations, while sprinkling in the curveball, shows plenty of long-term value as he adds to his repertoire.
On first pitches, he went to the fastball nine times, slider seven times and curveball four times, but he used the splitter 13 times in two-strike counts. Seems like Mize already has a good approach figured out, and it worked to his advantage Thursday with seven strikeouts.
Mize’s thoughts:”The cutter was really not doing what it was designed to do. It was just kind of spinning and backing up at the top of the zone. The weird thing was it wasn’t doing what I wanted, but they also weren’t hitting it. … The execution was there, for the most part, you know, just the plan might have been wrong, especially to Monca…