Detroit Tigers reliever Alex Lange ‘ready to go’ despite recent struggles

Detroit Tigers reliever Alex Lange 'ready to go' despite recent struggles

Alex Lange promises he isn’t fatigued.

“I’m ready to go,” he said.

But Lange’s results since the All-Star break suggest something isn’t right. The Detroit Tigers’ right-handed reliever has allowed 16 earned runs with nine walks and 25 strikeouts over his past 16 innings (18 games).

Lange is still getting whiffs when he throws his nasty curveball, but for the first time this season, opponents are making consistent contact with his premier pitch. The month of August has been especially troublesome.

“When you don’t execute in this league, they’re going to hit you,” Lange said. “And I didn’t (execute). I’m not looking too far into it. I’m not going to overhaul or change everything. You hang a breaking ball and he hits it out, tip your cap and move on to the Next guy. You can’t sit here and dwell on it or try to change everything because you made a bad pitch.”

Tigers reliever Alex Lange pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during eighth-inning action Sunday, August 7, 2022 at Comerica Park.

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Entering Saturday, Lange had given up five runs in two innings combined over his past two outings. The Texas Rangers scored three runs against him last Sunday at Globe Life Field, and the Seattle Mariners scored twice Wednesday at Comerica Park.

Before the All-Star break, Lange posted a 2.04 ERA in 35⅓ innings (39 games).

“The execution has been a little bit off,” Hinch said. “He’s been pretty erratic lately. Part of that is the league knows he’s going to throw 60-70% breaking balls. They’re going up anticipating that. It doesn’t make it easier or harder, but execution becomes a little bit more of a priority.”

Texas’ Kole Calhoun crushed a home run on a sinker. Long tried to throw the pitch inside, but it leaked over the middle of the plate. On Wednesday, Seattle’s Adam Frazier and Abraham Toro showcased extra-base power against Lange’s curveball.

Frazier tripled, and on the next pitch, Toro homered to put the Mariners ahead, 4-3, in the seventh inning of an eventual 5-3 victory.

“The breaking ball that got hit for a homer was on the bottom line of the zone, just a little middle,” Lange said. “The guy was sitting on it and made a good swing. I’ve been playing against that guy since A-ball. He was sitting on a breaking ball and got to it.”

This season, Lange’s pitch mix has been comprised of 50.3% curveballs, 27.9% sinkers, 18.4% changeups and 3.4% four-seam fastballs. His curveball registered a .091 opponent batting average and 62.7% whiff rate in July.

In August, his curve brought a .313 batting average and 60.6% whiff rate.

“This league comes down to executing,” Lange said. “When you don’t execute, you get hurt. That’s what happens. Coming in late in the ballgame, coming in for the hold, you don’t execute, then you get hit and give up the game and cost your team a win . I’m trying to keep these boys in the ballgame. We’ve been battling all year. Just got to continue to refine and continue to get better.”

An unexpected WBC allegiance

Lange, who played for the USA Collegiate National Team in 2016, has committed to compete for Puerto Rico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, scheduled for March 8-21. His mother, Renee, is Puerto Rican.

“My grandmother was born over there,” Lange said. “We just got to get the birth certificate and proof of all that stuff (to the Puerto Rican Baseball Federation). I’m just trying to figure it all out.”

The 26-year-old became interested in playing for Puerto Rico in 2020 upon meeting Tigers assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves. Then the Puerto Rican Baseball Federation invited Lange to participate in the 2023 WBC.

Lange is excited to play alongside infielders Carlos Correa (Minnesota Twins), Francisco Lindor (New York Mets) and Javier Báez (Tigers). Tigers reliever Joe Jiménez pitched for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 WBC but hasn’t committed for 2023.

“It’s a deep team,” Lange said. “I think (George) Springer committed as well. It’s going to be fun. It’s a pretty deep team, so obviously, it’s a super unique opportunity. Playing for something more than yourself sounds pretty cool.”

Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera looks on from the dugout in the first inning on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, at Comerica Park.

Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera looks on from the dugout in the first inning on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, at Comerica Park.

Miguel Cabrera’s health

Designated hitter Miguel Cabrera met with a doctor late Saturday afternoon for an examination on his left bicep. The 39-year-old suffered the injury on a swinging strikeout in the fifth inning of Friday’s 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals.

“We’ll have a little more answers later,” Hinch said. “He feels better, whatever that’s worth at this point. But we’ll have to get him evaluated.”

A ruptured left bicep tendon in June 2018 ended Cabrera’s season. The injury sustained on a swing required surgery. This time, Cabrera hurts a different part of his bicep.

Cabrera, a 20-year MLB veteran, is batting .256 with four home runs, 25 walks and 94 strikeouts in 102 games. Since July 28, Cabrera has a .088 batting average and .148 on-base percentage over 17 games.

Hinch does not want Cabrera to step away from the team.

“He should play if he can play,” he said.

Schoop begins rehab assignment

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop began a rehab assignment Saturday with High-A West Michigan. He is recovering from a right ankle sprain and has been on the injured list since Aug. 23, retroactive to Aug. 21.

Schoop served as the Whitecaps’ second baseman Saturday. He will play Sunday, and after Monday’s off day, he will join Triple-A Toledo.

“He’ll continue to play with them,” Hinch said. “I don’t know the schedule exactly, but he’s working his way back. He’ll have to do some things before he comes back. Maybe, maybe not on the road trip (Sept. 5-11). I know he wants to come back, but we’re certainly looking forward to get him on the field.”

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers reliever Alex Lange ‘ready to go’