Sometimes, it doesn’t take long to recognize what a player is going to bring to the table in a given season. We recognized Matthew Boyd’s whiff-happy ways early on — who couldn’t after those first two starts?! — and identified a few measurable changes in what he has brought to the table in 2019. Whether he maintains that 2.60 ERA (or thereabouts) for most of the season remains to be seen, but I think it’s safe to say Boyd will continue to rack up plenty of whiffs and strikeouts throughout the season.
Others are a bit tougher to identify. Miguel Cabrera’s power still hasn’t shown up yet, and we don’t know whether it will truly return after a couple of injury-riddled seasons. Several other players in the lineup are question marks as well.
One player I truly have no bearing on yet is Tyson Ross. The 31-year-old righthander has made two starts so far this season, and they could not have been more different. In the first, Ross struggled to find the strike zone. He walked four Yankees hitters, gave up two home runs, and generated seven swinging strikes on 89 pitches. In the second? Ross struck out eight Royals, generating 13 swinging strikes in a 91-pitch effort. He only walked one hitter, didn’t give up a homer, and made it through seven innings before hitting the showers.
The only real difference between the starts — well, besides the Yankees being much better — was Ross’s mix of secondary pitches. He threw more cutters in his first start, a pitch opponents teed off on last season, but went almost exclusively fastball-slider in start number two. This simple adjustment could be why Ross had much better results the second time around, but I think we need to see more from him first. Among other things, I’m still skeptical of his 89 mile-per-hour fastball.
Hopefully we learn a bit more as he faces the Twins on Saturday.
Detroit Tigers (8-5) at Minnesota Twins (6-4)
Time/Place: 2:10 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Tyson Ross (1-1, 2.25 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 2.00 ERA)
Game 14 Pitching Matchup
The Twins made a $10 million bet on Michael Pineda in December 2017, and it seems to be paying off so far. Pineda underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2017, and was in no shape for the Twins to see him throw by the time he signed his contract. After taking nearly all of 2018 to rehab — Pineda made just four appearances, all in the minors — he has looked solid in a pair of starts to open the 2019 season. His velocity was a bit down in his first outing, but he averaged 93 miles per hour with his fastball in his last start, an 80-pitch effort against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Because of the injury, it’s a bit early to assess what Pineda is doing to open 2019. He has struck out his fair share of hitters — 10 of the 32 he has faced this season, to be exact — but is that his doing, or because he faced the strikeout-happy Indians in his first start? His pitch mix looks roughly the same as when we saw him last, with a heavy dose of his four-seam fastball and slider, along with a changeup mixed in against lefthanders. It’s simple stuff, but effective if one can hit their spots, especially with the fastball. Pineda has done well on that front so far, with just two walks in his nine innings of work.
If we’re to watch a specific number with Pineda in this game, it’s his pitch count. Minnesota seems to have him on a short leash so far, so a couple of lengthy innings early on could lead to a quick hook for the 30-year-old righty.
Key matchup: All hitters vs. crappy Midwestern weather
Offense could be a bit hard to come by in this game if the starters are reasonably sharp. The temperature in Minneapolis is currently 33 degrees (as of roughly 11:00 a.m.), and is only expected to get up to 40 at best on Saturday. While everything else is fine — the sky gunk that postponed Friday’s matchup shouldn’t be an issue — cold conditions like that are usually tougher on hitters than pitchers. Unless you’re Jose Valverde, apparently.
Ross and the Tigers get back in the win column in another low-scoring matchup.