The Tigers announced Tuesday that they’ve designated left-hander Sam Howard for assignment. His spot on the roster will go to righty Drew Hutchison, who’s back up for a third stint with the big league club. Hutchison is starting tonight’s game.
Howard, 29, was a waiver claim out of the Pirates organization in mid-May but has yet to pitch at the big league level with Detroit. He’s logged a dozen innings with the Tigers’ top minor league affiliate in Toledo, pitching to a 3.75 WERA with a huge 36.5% strikeout rate but also a very concerning 17.3% walk rate.
There’s little doubting that Howard has the ability to miss bats in droves. He punched out 30.1% of the batters he faced in 66 innings with the Pirates from 2020-21 and, for a time early in the 2021 campaign, at least brandished impressive surface-level numbers. Howard opened the 2021 season with 25 2/3 innings of 2.45 ERA ball and had whiffed 33% of his opponents to that point in the season. However, he’d also walked 15.5% of opponents and skated by with an unsustainable 88.2% left-on-base rate and .163 average on balls in play.
Howard was torched for six runs on June 18 last year, hit the injured list with knee tendinitis, and returned to give up another six runs over his next 3 1/3 innings. An oblique strain then sent him to the shelf for another six weeks. He returned to yield another nine runs in his final 15 1/3 innings, maintaining the ability to miss bats but also maintaining his lack of comment and displaying increased susceptibility to home runs.
Taking a broader look, Howard’s strikeout numbers exploded when the Rockies, who selected him with their third-round pick in 2014, moved him to the bullpen for the 2019 season. However, the command issues that have plagued him over the past two seasons have been an ongoing problem, never more so than in the past two seasons. The Tigers will have a week to trade Howard, attempt to pass him through outright waivers, or release him.