The Tigers’ already-thin starting pitching depth took another hit Sunday afternoon. Following a victory over the Twins, manager Ron Gardenhire announced that right-hander Tyson Ross was headed to the 10-day injured list, according to a report from Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.
Counting Michael Fulmer and Matt Moore, who are out for the season, the Tigers are now down four starters that were projected to open the season in the rotation. Fulmer, Moore, Jordan Zimmermann, and now Ross are all absent from the active roster. All were expected to eat significant innings for a rotation that is waiting on its top prospects to arrive and take the mantle in the coming years. From the Opening Day rotation, only Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull, who have both been surprisingly fantastic, still remain healthy. Thankfully, Daniel Norris has been very good since moving into the rotation, but the Tigers have already reached deep into the farm for spot starters, and losing Ross only complicates that further.
Ross has not been good at all in 2019. He has posted a 6.11 ERA with a 15.4 percent strikeout rate, an 11.1 percent walk rate, and an elevated 22.6 percent HR/FB rate. However, Ross is at the very least a veteran whose current numbers matters very little to the future success of the organization. Signings like him and Moore allow the club to keep their young arms in the minors to develop. While Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Alex Faedo have all had plenty of success at Double-A Erie this season, none are ready for the majors yet, and calling them up only to get knocked around could be detrimental to their development.
Ryan Carpenter and Gregory Soto have both made starts for the big club this year, and Carpenter will continue to fill in until Zimmermann is ready to come off the injured list. Unfortunately, with Ross going down, the Tigers will have to rely on someone like Soto for more innings. Both Kyle Funkhouser and Beau Burrows have looked solid in Triple-A Toledo and are the closest to being major league ready among the top pitching prospects, but they both find themselves shelved with injuries as well. That’s the nature of pitching for you...
So who will take Ross’s spot in the rotation?
That’s the question that will need to be answered before Wednesday’s game when the Tigers take on the greatest pitcher in the organization’s history: Justin Verlander. Carpenter will go Tuesday, so the options are already slim. With Blaine Hardy’s return, a bullpen day led by him and Nick Ramirez might be the best option, but that might be asking a lot out of a ‘pen that could see its fair share of innings Tuesday. Soto was returned to Erie following the completion of Saturday’s doubleheader, but could be an option by virtue of being on the 40-man roster. Matt Hall of the Mud Hens could also get the call, as well. Both pitchers had long outings on Saturday, though, and would be working on short rest.
If the Tigers really wanted to get creative, giving Alex Faedo a taste of the majors could be a fun venture. Among the triumvirate of Mize, Manning, and Faedo, he has the lowest ceiling, but he is also the oldest of the three at 23, so service time shouldn’t be an issue. He has put up very good numbers in Erie with a 3.09 ERA, while striking out 27.2 percent of batters and walking only 3.7 percent of the hitters he has faced. While minor league numbers are hardly an indicator of major league success, Faedo’s stuff finally looks to be at the level of the guy they thought they were drafting in 2017, which might be enough to get him through a few starts in the majors this season.
However, given the 40-man roster constraints and thinning pitching depth around the organization, this is probably a fool’s bet. Expect to see someone already on the 40-man roster take the mound on Wednesday.
But wait, there’s more!
The Tigers also activated Josh Harrison from the 10-day disabled list on Sunday. Infielder Harold Castro was optioned to Triple-A Toledo to make room for Harrison.