Tigers vs. Guardians: Doubleheader sees Garrett Hill’s major league debut in game one

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In a now distant past when the Detroit Tigers ruled AL Central, no division rival has had a number quite like Cleveland. This July 4th, the Tigers welcome the Cleveland Guardians to Comerica Park with a doubleheader to kick off a four-game set. Given their long history of tormenting the Tigers, it’s hard to feel good coming from a home series to the Kansas City Royals over the weekend. Right now, the Guardians are hot on the heels of the top-ranked Minnesota Twins and are coming to Comerica hungry to feast on the weak.

The first of two will have some additional intrigue in the form of Garrett Hill’s major league debut. The Tigers’ organization has made a habit in recent years of finding quality pitching talent well outside of the high rounds of the Major League Draft. Hill certainly qualifies as he was drafted in the 26th round of the 2018 draft from San Diego State. The right-hander had decent slider and changeup considering how far he dropped and average control, but with a frame that was too small and a fastball, he just apparently wasn’t on anyone’s radar.

Hill’s pro debut went well and he was very effective in his first full season with the then-Low-A West Michigan Whitecaps in 2019. Despite this, he was almost exclusively viewed as a future spot starter at best and probably just a decent organizer to fill rotations in the system. An org guy.

Instead, like his colleague Beau Brieske, Hill built himself up in the losing 2020 season and emerged as a legitimate pitching prospect with the Erie SeaWolves in late 2021. He’s built for a pretty impressive tale of stamina and development, and while expectations should be pretty modest, Hill has a solid shot at keeping the Tigers in that streak until recently, despite a modest pedigree. He’s got a bit of a breakthrough and we’re pretty excited to see how his stuff stacks up against major league players. The ceiling is that of a backend starter at best right now, but he hasn’t stopped surprising us just yet.

Hill’s addition brings several roster changes as the Tigers moved Matt Manning to the 60-day injured list. It’s just procedure, because Manning has already missed that much time. Rony Garcia was the bigger hit, hitting the injury list with an arm sore just as he’d gotten a solid little roll in the transition from middle relief to the start. This is what the Tigers’ 2022 season looks like.

Meanwhile, Alex Faedo is recalled from Toledo to start game two. His initial demotion was also just a procedural move as the rookie right-hander won’t miss his regular round in the Tigers’ rotation.

Detroit Tigers (30-47) vs. Cleveland Guardians (40-36)

Time Location: 1:10 p.m. EDT/Comerica Park, Detroit, MI
SB Nation Page: Cover the corner
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.tv, Tigers Radio Network
Game 1 Pitching Matchup: RHP Garrett Hill (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Zach Plesac (2-5, 3.86 ERA)
Game 2 Pitching Matchup: RHP Alex Faedo (1-4, 4.84 ERA) vs. TBD

Play 78-79 Pitching Matchups

jug IP FIP K% BB% HR-9 f WAR
jug IP FIP K% BB% HR-9 f WAR
hill (AAA) 37.2 3.87 28.7 9.4 0.96
Plesac 79.1 4.43 17.0 6.0 1.25 0.5
Faedo 48.1 4.51 18.3 8.0 1.3 0.4
open

The first thing to know about Hill is that he’s not an overpowered guy and will likely be sitting around 92 mph in this one. At 6ft 0 he is not an imposing figure. However, his angle to the plate helps his fastball play well, and when mastered well, he gets more puffs and weak contact than you might expect. There’s also a bit of deception as Hill has a lot of late acceleration in his arm stroke and batsmen are often tied up by inside fastballs given his limited speed.

Hill backs this up with a solid slider changeup combo, which again isn’t particularly overwhelming in terms of movement but tends to overplay due to its ability to mix pitches with commands. He’ll also take off a bit with a curveball that looks a lot like the slider but has a lot more depth.

When Hill can keep his emotions in check and trust his stuff, it’s pretty fun to watch him pitch. He tends to get a lot of ground balls and rack up some strikeouts in a hurry. If he has trouble seeing the full pitch mix? He can be hit even if he can keep the ball on the ground.

Plesac is a fairly similar pitcher, but one with a pretty good track record of frustrating hitters by spotting his stuff and being unpredictable. The fastball is only 92 mph but a little sneaky, and Plesac thrives on throwing his slider, changeup, and the occasional curveball in every count with good position. He doesn’t knock out a lot of guys, but he gets a lot of weak flyballs in the air and should enjoy pitching at Comerica Park with a pretty good defensive line behind him.

After his home run on Sunday and given Jonathan Schoop’s disastrous season so far, look to the plate for Kody Clemens to get the second base start. Victor Reyes and Willi Castro both handled Plesac well, obviously these are very small samples and adding speed to the lineup makes sense. We could see a Castro, Greene, Reyes in the outfield with Grossman DH-ing while Miguel Cabrera sat until game two. Plesac is the guy you need to make runs against because he rarely falls apart for a big inning.

In game two, Alex Faedo will face off against a point starter. The 26-year-old rookie has struggled in his last three starts as the Tigers attempted to limit his innings following Tommy John’s surgery. He keeps fighting but lately more balls have left the yard on bumpy starts. He needs to get better at his fastball and keep the guards in the middle of the park to succeed. The deletions are still not visible.

The Tigers are about to wrap up the first half in which they lost a series to Kansas City and are now back playing the Guardians, White Sox, Royals and then again the Guardians going into the All-Star break walk. Their record at this point doesn’t mean much, but if this team wants to salvage something before going into the break, it’s better to do it quickly. A rough two-week stretch could see them finally buried on the HQ floor this season.

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