- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
ST. LOUIS — Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch doesn't want to hear any complaining about the length of the season.
Not from rookies, not from veterans and not from his coaching staff.
The 2021 season is a return to the norm after last year's campaign, shortened to 60 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the 162-game schedule also presents a new challenge for rookie starting pitchers Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning, among other youngsters on the roster.
"The mental fatigue is real for these guys, but it's a reality," Hinch said Tuesday. "If we get to where we want to get, this isn't even the stretch run yet. This is just August. I'm not going to buy in and allow guys to talk about being tired and mentally exhausted in August.
"We haven't even hit the stretch run where we're going to expect you to be good, and then good again in October. I've watched guys have five or six starts in October, so that's the standard that we're going to live by mentally."
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Scouts couldn't believe what they saw when they met 15-year-old Miguel Cabrera
Mize, 24, has topped his previous career-high in innings pitched, reaching 124⅓ innings across 23 starts entering Tuesday's outing against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. He has a 3.69 ERA, 36 walks and 98 strikeouts.
Before this season, Mize maxed out at 114⅔ innings as a junior for Auburn in 2018 before Detroit drafted him No. 1 overall. Through three starts in August, Mize carries a 6.08 ERA, six walks and 11 strikeouts over 13⅓ innings.
"And then physically," Hinch continued, "we'll pay attention to their pitch metrics and certainly have a lot of people weighing in on that."
Skubal, 24, has thrown 123 innings over 24 games (22 starts), logging a 4.02 ERA, 41 walks and 134 strikeouts. He also already surpassed his previous career-high — 122⅔ innings in 2019 between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie in the minor leagues.
Over Skubal's three starts in August, he has a 1.02 ERA, two walks and 17 strikeouts over 17⅔ innings. He is scheduled to pitch Wednesday against the Cardinals.
The scenario Manning faces, though, is a bit different compared to Mize and Skubal. Those rookies made their debuts last season. But the 23-year-old Manning arrived in the big leagues June 17 and has taken the mound for just 11 starts, with a 5.91 ERA, 17 walks and 29 strikeouts over 53⅔ innings.
Pitching 85⅔ innings between the Tigers and Triple-A Toledo, Manning has a ways to go before he cracks his previous high of 133⅔ innings for Erie in 2019. (He pitched 117⅔ innings between the Low-A, High-A and Double-A levels in 2018, as well.)
The Tigers still plan to monitor Manning's physical health, as they continue to do with Mize and Skubal during their adjustments to a full MLB season. All three want to pitch through September without being shut down, but keeping their arms safe from an injury is of the utmost importance.
"I think too many people think fatigue equals the radar gun, and it doesn't," Hinch said. "There are other ways to show when a delivery breaks down or when you can't execute. You have to find the 'why' if someone's not executing at their optimal speed. You can look up and a guy has great velocity and is still tired or a guy who's declining velocity and has plenty left in the tank.
"We've talked about this before, how much I despise the radar gun being the only evaluation. We'll look at it from a lot of different angles."
But Hinch doesn't want to hear about mental tiredness — not in August and not in September. He needs future frontline starters Mize, Skubal and Manning ready take the mound deep into October, possibly as soon as the 2022 season.
• Because Mize got the start in a National League ballpark, he was faced with stepping into the batter's box to face Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty. Mize did not hit during his college career at Auburn or at any point in the pros, but is he excited for a chance to swing the bat?
"No, I think more than anything, he doesn't want an at-bat to cost him an inning," Hinch said. "He wants to stay in the game as long as possible. It's a little trickier. You better pitch with the lead if you want to get that at-bat in the sixth inning."
• Double-A Erie catcher Dillon Dingler — the Tigers' No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline — is hitting .201 (27-for-134) with three home runs, 17 RBIs, seven walks and 41 strikeouts over 36 games since his promotion from High-A West Michigan. The 22-year-old landed on the injured list Aug. 6 after fracturing a finger on his left hand and remains unavailable.
"We're being fairly cautious with him as an organization because it's on his glove hand," Hinch said. "He'll be day-to-day and monitored series-by-series. Factor in where we're at in the season, we would like to get him back up and running as soon as possible, but he needs to be fully mended.
"The first season for him has been a success, period. Just getting to Double-A, the level has been a challenge. ... Learning pitchers at a couple different levels, the rigors of catching every single day. Obviously we try to have accommodations that account for recovery, and we treat our players very well, but it's not the same as the big leagues. It's not the life of luxury getting anything you want and recovering as easily as you can in the big leagues. It's a challenge, and it's why it's a grind to get to the big leagues. The catcher has it the toughest. I'm not saying that out of bias. I'm saying that out of fact."
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers won't listen to mental fatigue from young players