Detroit Tigers mailbag: Casey Mize's chances of making 2020 debut take hit
Less than 24 hours after Major League Baseball announced the final two weeks of spring training would be suspended — and the regular season delayed — Detroit Tigers chairman and CEO Christopher Ilitch made a big response.
Ilitch, who oversees Ilitch Holdings, Inc., offered a quick answer to a question that Tigers general manager Al Avila couldn't answer in the immediate aftermath of MLB suspending play: Would the organization pay off-the-field employees while MLB is shut down?
On Friday afternoon, Ilitch Holdings set up a $1 million fund to cover wages for part-time staffers who were scheduled to work games, concerts and other events that have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
"In this time of uncertainty, we are committed to standing with and supporting our dedicated and hardworking colleagues and providing them and their families the reassurance they deserve," according to a statement from Ilitch Holdings.
Ilitch Holdings owns the Tigers and Red Wings, and subsidiaries operate — among others — Comerica Park, Little Caesars Arena, and the Fox Theatre.
Nearly four days later, Ilitch's $1 million fund appeared to be the only such fund created by an MLB ownership group. Kudos to him for recognizing an important issue and addressing it quickly.
It took until Tuesday afternoon for the MLB’s 29 other ownership groups to follow suit: Every MLB team will commit $1 million to stadium employees who would not have been paid otherwise.
The Tigers’ $1 million donation is in addition to the Ilitch Holdings fund, according to a team spokesperson.
It would have been easy to overlook the impact of canceled events on stadium workers such as ushers and parking attendants — the many people who hold together the day-to-day operations and cannot afford to lose their paychecks.
But the Tigers didn't get lost in the absence of MLB games. That deserves recognition.
Here is a six-pack of questions for this week's Tigers mailbag:
Sounds like the Tigers have enough data on potential draft picks. Nothing will change that over the next few months. Let's hold the draft today. Who is their pick? — @LeylandsLung
Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson is their pick.
Torkelson likely would have been their pick at No. 1 overall in June even if the NCAA season had continued; he is the best college power hitter and he plays first base, a position the Tigers sorely need to address.
It's not particularly close, either: Are you going to pass on a player named Torkelson with plenty of torque at the place? No, you draft him and plug him into the middle of your order in a year or two.
He is drawing comparisons to Andrew Vaughn, who was drafted by the White Sox at No. 3 out of California last year, but one National League talent evaluator recently disagreed: "Andrew Vaughn is not a fair comp. Torkelson has a chance to lead the majors in homers. That’s how legit."
It seems similar to the Tigers' decision at No. 1 two years ago, when right-hander Casey Mize was the consensus top selection. Torkelson will be the guy — whenever the draft happens.
How does the layoff affect Fulmer's recovery timeline? Will the shutdown impact his ability to rehab with Tigers medical staff/trainers? If the season starts around Memorial Day, how close could he be to rejoining the rotation, assuming rehab goes well? — @K_Schneider17
I don't anticipate the layoff will affect righty Michael Fulmer much.
As of Monday morning, Fulmer was at TigerTown, along with other players who stuck around over the weekend. His throwing program continues; Fulmer has yet to start throwing at maximum effort.
His timetable doesn't change much, not when the vast majority of his rehabilitation is solo work. Remember, the biggest wrench the layoff throws into players' preparation has to do with building up pitches — Fulmer won't be starting that process for quite some time.
I'd expect Fulmer to remain in Lakeland and stay on track. He won't be a candidate to start the season in the rotation, unless the season doesn't start until August.
Will we see Lugo and Candy on opening day or will one or the other be DFA, and if one will be DFA which do you think it will be — @coachcookie45
It appears Jeimer Candelario is going to win the third base competition by default.
Three weeks into Grapefruit League play, neither Candelario (4-for-30) or Dawel Lugo (5-for-21) had made headway in the competition. Both players are out of minor-league options. So far, Candelario is better regarded, both by the Tigers and by other teams; it wouldn't be a surprise to see a team take a chance on him if he hit waivers.
Lugo — who arrived in camp bigger than expected — would likely pass through waivers.
The Tigers can't be thrilled with Candelario not locking down the job by now, but they also can't be surprised. Now, it just matters how he plays when the games count — whenever they do.
Will the Tigers be a playoff team this year because we are playing less games than usual? — @brendanburkeNRT
No. Thank you for reading, Brendan.
Does the delay mean our pitching prospects won’t debut this year? — @YungZebraJaFeel
I think this could be the most notable on-field effect of the layoff.
Though the Tigers have not been chomping at the bit to promote guys like righties Matt Manning and Mize, there was a chance either — if not both — could pitch their way to the big leagues this season. Still, a lot had to go right for that to happen for anything more than a September call-up.
But if MLB doesn't open up until June, it's all the less likely that we see either pitcher — or lefty Tarik Skubal, for that matter — for an extended period of time. Though the Tigers don't want to admit it, there are plenty of non-pitching reasons not to promote them; they're not just going to do it for its own sake in another lost season.
As I've covered previously, it takes only a slight hiccup in their training to delay them a year. Starting the season two months late certainly qualifies.
Is Mark "The Bird" Fidrych going to be in MLB THE SHOW 2020? And is Anthony Fenech going to be the MLB THE SHOW 2020 Tiger team journalist? — @Kid_Fleetfoot
I cannot confirm that The Bird will be in The Show. I will be in The Show; add me on PlayStation Network at "afen10" and maybe we can play a game — I have all the time in the world.