Detroit Tigers win another thriller: This is perfect team for Casey Mize, other prospects

Jeff Seidel
Detroit Free Press

After 10% of the season has already come and gone, we know one thing about the Detroit Tigers: Dang, this team is fun to watch.

No deficit seems too big. No situation seems too dire. The Tigers just keep clawing, keep fighting, keep hitting clutch home runs.

JaCoby Jones took his turn playing the hero on Wednesday night. One day after he was beaned in his face guard, Jones hit a pair doubles and a critical home run in a come-from-behind 5-4 victory.

But this is more than a one-man show. It seems like a new hero every night.

[ Order our book, 'Mr. Tiger: The Legend of Al Kaline' ]

For the most part, the bullpen has been outstanding. Closer Joe Jimenez has four saves. And don’t look now, but the Tigers are 4-2.

Yes, it’s early. But it’s actually not.

One tenth down — 54 games left.

Tigers outfielder Cameron Maybin and right fielder Victor Reyes celebrate of the Tigers' 5-4 win at Comerica Park on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

And this team has developed a special vibe, in the strangest of circumstances.

The Tigers can’t hang out after a big win like on Wednesday night. They can’t grab dinner together or get a beer to celebrate. And they are supposed to get out of the clubhouse as fast as possible because of precautions against the coronavirus.

But as odd as it sounds, this team has grown closer while practicing social isolation.

“It's one of the most comfortable clubhouses I've been a part of, quite honestly,” Tigers reliever Buck Farmer said.

[ Daniel Norris nearing return. But as a starter or reliever? ]

Now, after big wins, the Tigers celebrate on their phones through text messages on a giant group chat.

“Just saying, ‘Hey, great team win, let’s keep it going,’” Farmer said. “That kind of goes a long ways … letting each other know that hey, we are still thinking about this win and let's take it on to tomorrow, too.

“It kind of gives everybody reassurance that we're in this together and in this 60-game season, our biggest thing is staying healthy, staying with each other and just playing hard.”

Detroit Tigers prospect Casey Mize threw a bullpen session Saturday, July 4, 2020, at Comerica Park.

Giving a lift

I know it’s still early — everything could still fall apart — but everything is clicking for the Tigers. For the most part, they have played solid, competitive baseball -- when they aren't getting blown out. The Tigers are getting a big boost from their free-agent acquisitions. The bullpen is jelling.

And it’s a warm, welcoming clubhouse.

That is why the Tigers need to bring up their top pitching prospects as soon as possible. Not just Casey Mize. I’m talking about Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and certainly Tarik Skubal, if he is healthy.

[ Making sense of Royals' strange six-man outfield vs. Miguel Cabrera ]

This is the perfect environment for these players to get a taste of the big leagues. This team has little expectation but has gotten off to a fantastic start, and there are holes in the starting rotation.

Now, here comes another twist: If some of the pitching prospects get moved up, this team could be the best team Detroit puts on the field for a few years.

But if some of these prospects are saved until next year, there is no guarantee this team will be as competitive. Or that the vibe will stay the same. Or that there will be enough veterans left who can offer a calming influence.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Matt Manning throws during training camp at Comerica Park in Detroit, Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

Leading the way

The Tigers made four free-agent acquisitions, who have all made strong contributions.

First baseman C.J. Cron has produced both with his bat and his defense. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop is a daily example of what it takes to a big leaguer, never wanting to come out of the game. Schoop had a huge home run on Wednesday night. Catcher Austin Romine has brought a calm presence to the pitchers. And right fielder Cameron Maybin is a strong leader who brings energy to the clubhouse.

“It's like a puzzle, almost, where all the pieces have fallen into place and fit together really well,” Farmer said. “Sometimes you feel like you're trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, you know what I mean?”

[ Major League Baseball's plan for COVID-19 isn't really a plan. It's a prayer ]

But that’s not the case this year.

And it starts with Maybin.

“Cameron Maybin has been a been a massive part of that,” Farmer said. “He's just a great clubhouse guy. He's a great teammate, a great person. And you know his energy his vibe, just kind of brings everybody together.”

More often than not, Maybin is the one who starts the text message chats.

“He's always one to open up chats in our group text and just say, ‘Hey, look, great team win. Let's look forward to tomorrow. Let's keep going and just stay healthy,’” Farmer said.

From left, pitcher Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning pose for a photo during Detroit Tigers spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.

And Cron, Schoop, Maybin and Romine are all on one-year deals. There is no guarantee they will be back next year, and no guarantee the vibe will remain the same.

This is the perfect opportunity for the young prospects, playing in a stadium with no fans, on a team with little expectations, where the puzzle has come together, in a year where just playing .500 ball could get them into the playoffs.

Obviously, there aren’t enough starting spots in the rotation for all of them. But you can’t tell me they can’t find a temporarily role — even if it’s the bullpen — for these pitchers who form the backbone of this rebuild. Just for the taste and to get their feet wet.

So as soon as it’s possible — without wrecking a year of service time — the Tigers should bring them up.

You want to put them in a situation to succeed, and this situation is perfect.

Contact Jeff Seidel: Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to