Detroit Tigers call up Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal for MLB debuts

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers are bringing right-handed pitcher Casey Mize and lefty Tarik Skubal to the big leagues, in an effort to aid their ailing starting rotation.

General manager Al Avila announced Monday that Skubal will start Tuesday in Chicago against the White Sox, and Mize, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft, will start on Wednesday.

Mize is the No. 2 prospect in the organization, and Skubal is No. 5, according to MLB Pipeline.

"It's the proper time," Avila said in a Zoom call Monday.  "... It's performance based from here on out. As I said before, when we brought these guys up, we want them here to stay. We'll see how it turns out."

The Tigers also called up Isaac Paredes, the No.6 prospect in the organization, for an added bat. Paredes is expected to be in Monday's starting lineup for his MLB debut, Avila said.  

Dawel Lugo was sent to the Toledo, Avila said, and corresponding moves will be made for Mize and Skubal.

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Anticipation for Mize's debut began when he became the face of the franchise's farm system two years ago, and it only grew through his  successes in the minor leagues, including a no-hitter in 2019 for his first Double-A Erie outing, and in summer camp.

Last season, Mize posted a 2.55 ERA, 0.942 WHIP and 106 strikeouts against 23 walks in 109⅓ innings. He made 21 starts between High-A Lakeland and Erie. He had five starts in 2018 between Rookie ball and Lakeland, putting up a 3.95 ERA in 13⅔ innings.

Skubal's promotion comes as more of a surprise. After skyrocketing up the Tigers' top-prospect list, he had a setback before summer camp when he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Skubal missed most of summer camp, before joining the Tigers' squad in Toledo, where Avila says he has impressed.

"They're excited," Avila said. "but very calm, cool and collect. Very professional."

Pitcher Tarik Skubal

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If Mize, 23, is able to replicate even a portion of that performance, the Tigers will benefit. The team has slipped to 9-10 overall in the 60-game season — not because of the hitting or bullpen, but because of the starting rotation.

Right-hander Ivan Nova was placed on the 10-day injured list Saturday with right triceps tendinitis, leaving the Tigers with openings in the rotation for Tuesday and Wednesday. Since Mize tossed two innings in Toledo on Friday, he should be ready for a Wednesday debut.

But it's not just injuries that have tripped up Detroit's rotation. Expected ace Matthew Boyd, a left-hander, has a league-worst 10.24 ERA in four starts. Righty Michael Fulmer, who can't pitch more than three innings in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, has a 7.56 ERA in three starts. And the fill-in starters — righty Rony Garcia, and lefties Tyler Alexander and Daniel Norris — haven't dominated.

That leaves the Tigers with one pitcher on the rise in right-hander Spencer Turnbull, a 2.78 ERA in 22⅔ innings across four games. He has 21 strikeouts compared to 11 walks without allowing a home run.

Outside of Turnbull, nothing about the rotation has been positive.

Until now.

"If we had better pitching out of starters and less injuries," Avila said, "that would have been the best plan."

During summer camp in July, Mize struck out Miguel Cabrera on three pitches, and he has been successful at every level of baseball throughout his career. In three seasons at Auburn from 2016-18, the prospect was 20-13 with a 2.96 ERA, 324 strikeouts and 43 walks in 267⅓ innings. He started 36 of his 46 appearances.

Mize has received praise for his three plus-pitches: a mid-80s splitter that's considered one of the best from a prospect in years, a 93-95 mph fastball (can touch 97 mph) and a mid-80s slider. And while he gets ready to let those pitches fly, the Tigers don't have to worry about his MLB service time bringing early free agency. That deadline has long passed, meaning Mize won't become a free agent until 2026.

If Avila waited roughly three weeks into the 2021 season, then Mize wouldn't hit the market until 2027.

But at this point, with the Tigers falling apart, Avila couldn't wait any longer.

"I'd try to temper everybody's expectations," Avila said. "... But at the same time, it is exciting. It's just more preparation for 2021 and as we move forward in 2022."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content