The Tigers announced they’ve designated reliever Jacob Barnes for assignment and optioned outfielder Derek Hill to Triple-A Toledo. The moves open a pair of 26-man roster spots for right-hander Drew Hutchison and lefty Tyler Alexander, who will be added to the active roster tomorrow. Hutchison is being selected from Toledo, while Alexander will be reinstated from the 15-day injured list. Detroit’s 40-man roster count remains at 38.
Barnes signed a minor league deal over the offseason and broke camp with the club. The seven-year MLB veteran made 22 appearances for skipper A.J. Hinch, working primarily in lower-leverage situations. Barnes struggled to a 6.10 ERA through 20 2/3 innings, and of greater concern, saw his swing-and-miss propensity fall precipitously. He has generated swinging strikes on only 7.7% of his offerings, and his 11.2% strikeout rate is the fourth-lowest mark among the 160 relievers with 20+ innings pitched.
That’s a surprising development, as Barnes has typically posted solid strikeout and whiff numbers throughout his career. The velocity and spin on both his fastball and cutter are virtually unchanged relative to last season, but he’s simply not getting the kind of swing-and-miss to which he’s been accustomed. Barnes is out of minor league option years, so the Tigers had to designate him for assignment if they weren’t prepared to continue giving him opportunities to sort things out at the major league level.
Detroit will now have a week to trade the 32-year-old or place him on waivers. Given his rough start to the year, Barnes will probably land on the waiver wire. Even if he passes through unclaimed, he’d have the right to refuse a minor league assignment while still collecting the remainder of his $1.13MM salary by virtue of having surpassed five years of MLB service this season.
Hutchison returns to the big leagues for the second time in 2022. He made ten appearances earlier in the year after cracking the Opening Day roster, but Detroit designated him for assignment last month. Hutchison reached free agency after clearing waivers but re-signed on a minor league deal and worked his way back after five strong outings with the Mud Hens. The veteran has allowed only three runs in 9 2/3 innings with Toledo, punching out 13 batters with three walks.
A starting pitcher early in his career, the 31-year-old Hutchison has worked primarily in relief of late. That includes all of his early-season work in Detroit, where he tossed 15 2/3 innings of nine-run ball. Hutchison punched out 15 batters and issued 12 walks over that stretch, but he’s capable of shouldering multiple frames out of the bullpen and will presumably step into Barnes’ middle relief role.
Alexander, meanwhile, returns after a six-week absence. The southpaw started four times in April but suffered an elbow sprain that has kept him on the shelf since then. Originally targeted for a swing role, he’ll likely head right back into the rotation for a club that lost Casey Mize to a Tommy John procedure and has seen Matt Manning and Michael Pineda shelved due to long-term injury issues. Detroit will also be without Eduardo Rodríguez indefinitely as he attends to personal matters.