Detroit Tigers rookie Beau Brieske hopes to return in 2022 despite 'frustrating' setback

CLEVELAND — Detroit Tigers right-hander Beau Brieske doesn't know when he's going to restart his throwing program.

For now, the 24-year-old is waiting.

"It's frustrating," Brieske said. "I was so close to making my way back. My last rehab start felt really good. I felt sharp and ready. But I had a setback in the bullpen. I could have continued to throw through it, but it would have been a grind to do that."

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The Tigers placed Brieske on the 15-day injured list July 21, retroactive to July 18, due to right forearm soreness after he completed six innings July 12. He continued throwing — so he wasn't completely shut down — and the Tigers viewed the fatigue as a window to limit his innings, similar to a mid-season break.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Beau Brieske throws against the Texas Rangers in the first inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Thursday, June 16, 2022.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Beau Brieske throws against the Texas Rangers in the first inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

Now, he has right bicep tendinitis.

"I can learn from this," Brieske said. "Also just being able to recognize mechanical adjustments that I need to make to make sure that I'm not putting more stress on certain muscles that I shouldn't be. If I'm flying open, I'm putting more stress on my bicep, and that's a mechanical thing that I've dealt with throughout this year. If I look back, that could have been a factor into this."

In 2021, Brieske threw 106⅔ innings across 21 starts for High-A West Michigan and Double-A Erie. This season, the former 27th-round pick has pitched 17⅓ innings for Triple-A Toledo and 81⅔ innings for the Tigers. Brieske has a 4.19 ERA with 25 walks and 54 strikeouts in 15 MLB starts.

Brieske was supposed to pitch for the Tigers on Aug. 11 against the Cleveland Guardians at Comerica Park, after a pair of successful rehab starts for the Mud Hens on July 31 and Aug. 5.

On Aug. 5, Brieske completed 4⅓ innings of one-run ball on 66 pitches (49 strikes). He did not concede a walk, struck out eight batters, averaged 97-98 mph with his fastball and mixed in his secondary pitches.

Then, he suffered a setback in his bullpen.

"That's been the frustrating part," Brieske said. "We all agreed that it was probably the smart decision to have that break due to the fact that we had the innings limit in place already. I would have rather been able to finish this season as opposed to keep going from there and then shut down at the end of the year."

The Tigers transferred Brieske to the 60-day injured list Aug. 10, and with the initial injury list placement retroactive to July 18, he isn't eligible to return to the big leagues until Sept. 17, meaning he could squeeze in a few starts before the Oct. 5 regular season finale.

Tigers pitcher Beau Brieske looks at the scoreboard and takes a drink in the dugout during the fifth inning on Thursday, July 7, 2022, in Chicago.
Tigers pitcher Beau Brieske looks at the scoreboard and takes a drink in the dugout during the fifth inning on Thursday, July 7, 2022, in Chicago.

If there's another setback, Brieske would be unlikely to pitch again in 2022.

But that's not part of his plan.

"I want to pitch," Brieske said. "I can't right now, but I will be soon."

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Willi Castro scratched

Before Tuesday’s game, the Tigers scratched right fielder Willi Castro due to wrist soreness. He injured his wrist in Monday’s while sliding into second base and wasn't able to play Tuesday.

Akil Baddoo replaced him in the lineup, batting ninth and playing left field. Victor Reyes shifted from designated hitter to right field, while Kerry Carpenter — previously set to play left field — took over the DH spot.

The E-Rod plan

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez pitched Thursday for Triple-A Toledo and is scheduled to pitch for the Mud Hens again Tuesday, which could be his final outing in the minor leagues before returning to the Tigers.

On Thursday, Rodriguez fired five scoreless innings and used 53 pitches (39 strikes). He allowed one hit and one walk with six strikeouts. For Tuesday's start, the 29-year-old is expected to get through five or six innings.

Manager A.J. Hinch and Rodriguez will talk Wednesday to determine the next step.

"Whether it's another rehab start or rejoining us," Hinch said. "I'm going to listen to him. He knows himself the best. ... In both outings, he's been able to respond and bounce back, and his bullpens have been fine. He's reported no issues. That's a good sign."

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Rodriguez also pitched Aug. 6 for Low-A Lakeland, his first start for the organization since a dominant June 9 rehab outing with Toledo as part of his recovery from a left ribcage sprain. He has been on the restricted list since June 13.

He hasn't pitched in MLB since May 18.

Austin Meadows nears decision point

Outfielder Austin Meadows has played four games in his rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo. He will be in the lineup for back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday and could take the field Thursday.

The 27-year-old is 3-for-16 with two RBIs and four strikeouts in four games. He has been on the injured list since June 17 because of a positive COVID-19 test, then left and right Achilles tendon strains.

"The first decision point will be Friday," Hinch said. "If he stays with them and continues his rehab through the weekend, the Monday is off for the minor leagues like always. The next decision point would be Tuesday."

Meadows has played 36 games for the Tigers this season, as well as 10 games for the Mud Hens amid multiple rehab assignments for multiple health issues, including an inner ear infection and vertigo.

He hasn't played for the Tigers since June 15 but could return Friday against the Los Angeles Angels or Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants.

"I was texting back and forth with him," Hinch said. "He said it's just general body soreness of getting back and playing again but nothing to do with the Achilles, so that's been good. He's been able to find something positive every day. I don't think he's perfectly ready yet."

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Beau Brieske: Arm setback is learning experience