CHICAGO — The Detroit Tigers don't have an abundance of pitching depth remaining on the 40-man roster. There were a few options available and the Tigers decided to promote right-handed reliever Garrett Hill from Triple-A Toledo.
The 27-year-old made the Opening Day roster coming out of spring training, only to be optioned to the Mud Hens on April 15 because he struggled to throw pitches inside the strike zone.
"I took a note from (Mason) Englert, doing meditation," Hill said about his adjustments in the minor leagues. "Just getting my breath under control and getting rid of all that anxiety. Just focusing on my breath, staying calm and being under control."
After more than a month in Toledo, Hill joined the Tigers as a member of the bullpen for Sunday's series finale against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. The transaction occurred one day after the Tigers sent right-handed starter Alex Faedo to the 15-day injured list with right middle finger discomfort.
A hangnail opened the door for Hill's return to the big leagues.
With the Tigers, Hill posted a 10.29 ERA with five walks and seven strikeouts across seven innings in five outings. With the Mud Hens, he posted a 4.78 ERA with 18 walks and 37 strikeouts across 26⅓ innings in 15 appearances (four starts).
"The prep is pretty much the same for me," Hill said of starting and relieving at the Triple-A level. "I've got my routine that I do to warm my body up. It's basically like, when in the game am I pitching? I try to keep it as similar as possible so there's not one drastic difference between the two."
His latest outing for Toledo was arguably his best outing. He opened Thursday's game as a starter — doing so for the first time since the beginning of May — and threw three innings of one-run ball with two walks and six strikeouts.
Hill tossed 29 of 53 pitches for strikes.
"Locate, don't try to do too much, get ahead of guys and stay under control," Hill said. "I felt strong through three (innings), so I'll do whatever they need. ... We'll see what they need down the road."
Too many walks hurt Hill in his last opportunity with the Tigers.
This time, the former 26th-round pick feels equipped to stay inside the strike zone and help the Tigers, whether that's coming out of the bullpen or starting Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"I wish it was as simple as taking a deep breath, but I think his (pitch) usage has gotten better," Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's gotten control of his delivery again which will help him get control of his pitches. It has progressively gotten better. ... I think Garrett did a good job of compartmentalizing the work that he's done in the bullpen and then getting out on the mound and getting after the hitter."
The Tigers, dealing with a multitude of injuries, will start left-hander Joey Wentz on Monday and right-hander Reese Olson on Wednesday in the upcoming three-game series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
A starting pitcher is needed for Tuesday's game.
"We have a decision to make on how we're going to piece together the game," Hinch said, referencing Hill's addition pertaining to the pitching plan, "but I think he's thrown up to three or four innings. He's rested. He's completely ready to go. What we do in the next couple of days will dictate what we do on Tuesday."
If the Tigers pick an internal candidate for Tuesday's start, there could be four pitchers in the mix to open a bullpen-only game: Hill, left-hander Tyler Alexander, right-hander Mason Englert and lefty Tyler Holton.
First rehab start
Left-hander Tarik Skubal — returning from left flexor tendon surgery — started Sunday for High-A West Michigan in his first rehab start. It was his first time pitching in a game since Aug. 1, 2022.
Skubal averaged 96 mph with his fastball, struck out one batter and retired the side in order on five pitches in the first inning. The 26-year-old, who threw 10 of 12 pitches for strikes, allowed one hit in the second inning but got his final two outs with an inning-ending double play.
He could need four or six starts in the 30-day rehab period before returning to the Tigers' starting rotation at the beginning of July. At some point, he will advance to Triple-A Toledo. Skubal registered a 3.52 ERA with 32 walks and 117 strikeouts across 117⅔ innings in 21 starts last season.
— Tigers ML Report (@tigersMLreport) June 4, 2023
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers recall Garrett Hill from Triple-A as they need starters