Why Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch is totally fine with Casey Mize's bit of frustration

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Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch gave Casey Mize a chance to pitch into the eighth inning for the first time in his career Monday. For Mize, it still wasn’t enough.

Mize wanted to finish off the inning, so he got a little ticked when he saw Hinch strolling to the mound and summoning for Gregory Soto to enter. Mize had just struck out the previous two batters after giving up a solo homer to Tom Murphy.

“I will never be mad when a pitcher is frustrated coming out of the game,” Hinch said after the Tigers’ 4-1 victory over Seattle. “They want to stay in there. When we came in (to the dugout), Casey asked a lot of questions. He was telling me he can get that guy.”

Casey Mize #12 of the Detroit Tigers gestures after he was taken out of the game during the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on May 17, 2021.
Casey Mize #12 of the Detroit Tigers gestures after he was taken out of the game during the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on May 17, 2021.

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“That guy” is another phenom, Jarred Kelenic, a talented left-handed hitter taken five picks after Mize went No. 1 in the 2018 draft. Soto did his job, retiring Kelenic on a grounder.

“(Hinch) said, it’s not my fault, it’s yours,” Mize said. “You gave up the leadoff homer. That changed my perspective.”

If there are questions about whether the Tigers took the right guy at the top of the draft three years ago, Mize seems intent on eliminating that doubt. He delivered his fourth straight quality start, limiting the opponent to three hits for the third consecutive time while matching his career-high with seven strikeouts.

Mize’s fastball was popping and his breaking pitches, particularly his curveball, were equally as effective.

Confidence has never been an issue for Mize but now he’s getting a better feel for how to mix his pitches and set up hitters at this level. That’s allowed Hinch to trust him deeper into games.

“If you want to be a premier guy at this level, if you want to be seen as an anchor of a staff, which we hope he is at some point, you’ve got to do these things,” Hinch said. “That’s part of your responsibility.”

Prior to Murphy’s homer, Mize had allowed two hits. He was aided by a couple of double plays in the early going, one of which he started. Mize walked three batters, the fourth time in the last five starts he’s issued at least three free passes, so there’s still some fine-tuning to be done.

“All four (recent) starts could have been better,” he said, “so I’m just trying to grow from that.”

Mize entered the big leagues with a mountain of expectations. At the other end of the spectrum is catcher Eric Haase, who has logged 2,546 official career minor league at-bats.

Haase was added to the roster after Wilson Ramos and Grayson Greiner were placed on the injured list. Ramos was activated Monday but Haase not only remained with the big club, he also got his first career start in left field.

Haase delivered the offensive punch, blasting solo home runs in the second and ninth innings. His only previous homer came during a September callup with Cleveland two years ago.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Casey Mize (12) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning May 17, 2021, at T-Mobile Park
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Casey Mize (12) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning May 17, 2021, at T-Mobile Park

“Anytime I get to put this uniform on, I don’t take it for granted,” said Haase, a Dearborn Divine Child alum. “I feel extremely blessed to even be part of this team, so any time I can be up here, let alone be starting games and be part of winning at the big-league level, it’s awesome. So, I’ll keep riding it out as long as it lasts.”

For Haase, it was a special night. For Mize, this is just the early stages of what the franchise hopes will be a special career.

“He’s settling in nicely with his approach,” Hinch said. “Certainly, the game is slowing down for him and a night like tonight, where he’s in full command of the game, it’s nice to see.”

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' AJ Hinch likes Casey Mize's competitive intensity