Detroit Tigers' Casey Mize takes on Miguel Cabrera with no fear: 'He was filthy'

Anthony Fenech
Detroit Free Press

Last year, in one of Casey Mize’s first spring training workouts in Tiger Town, he took a throw from Miguel Cabrera at first base.

Mize, back then about as fresh as it comes — he had made a few starts at Class A Lakeland after he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2018 — seemed starstruck on his way back to the mound.

A year later, at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon, Mize looked at Cabrera from the mound.

If Mize, now 23, is not big-league ready yet by a traditional developmental schedule —the Detroit Tigers would have preferred he pitch at Triple-A Toledo this season — then he is close.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Casey Mize throws during an intrasquad game Thursday, July 9, 2020, at Comerica Park.

And in a three-pitch swinging strikeout of Cabrera, the young right-hander showed that might be the case.

[ What C.J. Cron has learned from Miguel Cabrera ]

In 2⅓ innings, he allowed no hits and struck out three. He was both effective and efficient — the Tigers squeezed another out into the bottom of the second inning because he had thrown so few pitches.

When asked what he was most impressed with, manager Ron Gardenhire said: “About everything. I mean, my goodness gracious … We’ve said this and I’ve seen him pitch before, so I guess when you start expecting things like that, it says a lot.

Detroit Tigers third baseman Dawel Lugo bats against Matthew Boyd during an intrasquad game Thursday, July 9, 2020 at Comerica Park.

"But he was filthy. He knows how to read a hitter, you can see that. He knows how to set up the hitter and he’s very sure and he can probably add and subtract about as well as anybody right now with his pitches and I think he was just a great feel for the hitters. So we have a good one here and that was exciting to watch today.”

Mize faced seven hitters — Niko Goodrum, Jonathan Schoop, Cabrera, C.J. Cron, Jeimer Candelario, Austin Romine and Jorge Bonifacio.

[ Five Tigers observations from Thursday's workout at Comerica Park ]

In his third look at camp — Mize threw a bullpen session on the first day of camp and live batting practice Monday — he seemed much more settled.

In Monday’s session, he was too amped early and couldn’t find the strike zone. But Thursday, he looked comfortable from the get-go against the starting infield — including Cabrera.

[ Miguel Cabrera offers sneak peek at potential comeback season: What we saw ] 

With lefty Daniel Norris put on the 10-day injured list after testing positive for the coronavirus, there is some uncertainty in the starting rotation. Mize — considered the more polished of the Tigers’ two top prospects, the other being Matt Manning — continues to creep into consideration with the way he has been throwing.

But even if he doesn’t start the season in Detroit, his advanced development will likely force him there sooner rather than later.

As he said earlier this week, when asked if taking a big step in 2020 would be possible without big-league innings: “It would be tough, honestly. I think there’s a ton of value in facing hitters and trying to be as competitive as possible this season. I think we can get better.

“If that’s not a possibility, it’s just going to be a little bit tougher, in all honesty.”

But if he keeps pitching the way he did Thursday, he won’t have to worry about that.

Contact Anthony Fenech at afenech@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.