One of baseball’s top prospects could make his MLB debut on Sunday, as Casey Mize could potentially start the Tigers’ game against the Reds. Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire has held back from directly stating that Mize is slated to start, as the skipper told MLB.com’s Jason Beck and other reporters on Friday that “I can’t announce anything until my general manager makes a statement.” In another chat with media (including MLive.com’s Evan Woodbery) this morning, Gardenhire noted that “We’re on a day-to-day basis here. We’ve got to make sure everything’s okay before we make that announcement for tomorrow.”
Factors both large and small go into that “everything’s okay” designation. Most directly, rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast for both tonight and tomorrow in the Detroit area, so the Tigers aren’t going to promote Mize unless they are certain a game will actually be played. (To that end, the Tigers and Reds moved their game today from a 5:10pm CT start to 12:10pm CT in an effort to try and beat the rain.)
In the bigger picture, there is also the increasingly ominous threat that the 2020 season could be paused or halted altogether as multiple teams (the Marlins and Cardinals) are now dealing with coronavirus outbreaks. The latter situation is more directly concerning to the Tigers, as Detroit is scheduled to face St. Louis in four games from August 3-6. At the very least, it seems very likely those four games won’t be happening, leaving the Tigers with an extended break in the schedule unless they can possibly rearrange any other games with other opponents.
Such on-field considerations are of obvious concern to the Tigers in regards to Mize’s status, as they’re not going to call up their most prized young arm only to begin his career in stop-start fashion. Service time could also be an issue, as while enough time in the season has passed that Detroit has gained an extra year of control over Mize, the Tigers might not want to start his service time clock due to the possibility that the league might halt play all teams within just a few days’ time.
It’s an unusual situation to be sure, though the idea of Mize making his debut in 2020 was certainly in the cards long before the pandemic became a reality. The first overall pick of the 2018 draft has impressed in his brief pro career, posting a 2.71 ERA, 4.62 K/BB rate, and 8.8 K/9 over 123 total minor league innings. Mize hasn’t pitched beyond the Double-A level, tossing 78 2/3 frames for the Tigers’ Erie affiliate in 2019, though the canceled 2020 minor league season erased his opportunity to pitch Triple-A ball. Detroit included Mize on its 60-man player pool, and the righty has been working out at the team’s minor league training site.