The Tigers are set to select the contract of left-hander Blaine Hardy from Triple-A Toledo prior to tonight’s game, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter). Detroit outrighted the 31-year-old southpaw late in Spring Training, but his absence from the 40-man roster will only last for about a total of six weeks, it seems.
Hardy, a regular in the Detroit relief corps over the past four seasons, notched an even 3.00 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 in 126 innings out of the Detroit ’pen from 2014-16 before stumbling in 2017. Last year proved to be the most difficult season of his career, as Hardy limped to a 5.94 ERA and served up seven homers in just 33 1/3 innings of work.
Over the winter, there was talk of Hardy hoping for an opportunity to stretch out as a starter, and the Tigers have granted him that wish at the minor league level. Hardy’s first three appearances of the season were in short relief, but he’s since been stretched out over the course of four starts. The results are actually quite intriguing.
Hardy went 3 1/3 innings in his first outing, jumped to five innings in his second start, six in his third and seven in his fourth and final start before being brought back to the Majors. More impressive, however, is the fact that he’s allowed just two earned runs over the life of those four starts and has averaged well north of a strikeout per inning. Hardy has a sparkling 0.84 ERA and a 25-to-4 K/BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings out of the Triple-A rotation, highlighted by a seven-inning, five-hit gem in which he allowed just one run and racked up 10 strikeouts without issuing a walk.
It’s a tiny sample, to be sure, but for a lefty specialist who struggled to a near-6.00 ERA in his most recent run at the big league level, the results are somewhat astounding. At present, Detroit is running Michael Fulmer, Francisco Liriano, Matthew Boyd, Mike Fiers and Jordan Zimmermann out in the rotation, but Hardy brings a definite level of intrigue to a largely uninspiring mix of arms. There’s little reason not to give him a look in the Majors to see if he can sustain any of his surprising success at the Triple-A level — especially for a rebuilding team whose already paper-thin pitching depth took a notable hit with the news that Daniel Norris will be out for up to 12 weeks.