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Ron Gardenhire on Tigers' elite pitching prospects: 'I hope I don't get fired before they get here'

Tigers have five starting pitchers dominating Double-A Erie

Manager Ron Gardenhire #15 of the Detroit Tigers before the game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on August 23, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Teams are wearing special color schemed uniforms with players choosing nicknames to display for Players' Weekend. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

DETROIT – Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire spoke Wednesday about the organization's elite young pitching prospects, saying he hopes to still be around when they get to the MLB level.

"That's a group that I hope I don't get fired before they get here," Gardenhire told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.

Gardenhire was asked specifically about No. 1 overall pitching prospect Casey Mize, No. 27 prospect Matt Manning, top 100 prospect Tarik Skubal and former first-round pick Alex Faedo.

All four have enjoyed strong years with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves.

"It is a good group with a lot of talent," Gardenhire said. "That Double-A team in general is a really good team. They play the game the right way, so it's fun to see."

Mize, the No. 2 prospect in baseball, has been shut down after pitching 109.1 innings between Single-A and Double-A this year.

Casey Mize threw a no-hitter in his debut with Double-A Erie on April 29, 2019. (Erie SeaWolves/Twitter: @Erie_SeaWolves)

While his final numbers -- a 2.72 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings -- look strong, Mize struggled after a return from injury.

"Every organization has an innings limit," Gardenhire said. "Shutting people down -- we're no different than anybody else, any other organization."

In his final six starts, Mize allowed 21 earned runs in 26.2 innings, posting a 7.09 ERA and allowing opponents to have an .846 OPS.

He continued to miss bats at a strong rate, though, and finished on a strong note, allowing just two runs on four hits in six innings.

Manning has been in Erie the entire season, making 24 starts and striking out an even 10 batters per nine innings. It's the lowest strikeout rate of Manning's young career, but it comes with a sub-1.00 WHIP, a 2.56 ERA and tremendous consistency.

Detroit Tigers prospect Matt Manning goes into his wind-up against the Hartland Yard Goats while playing for the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on May 21, 2019.

"We're developing, we're growing these kids," Gardenhire said. "We've got a good draft and we're going to let them come up through the system, and pretty soon it's going to be fun around here."

Faedo has raised his strikeout rate from 7.5 to 10.4 per nine innings this season while posting a solid 4.01 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Home runs have been his downfall, but the strikeout and walk rates are elite.

Skubal's numbers in Double-A have been ridiculous. He's struck out 78 of the 157 batters he's faced, allowing just 39 base runners in 39.2 innings. His 17.7 strikeouts per nine innings combined with a low home run rate in a homer happy environment pushed Skubal into the organization's top five prospects.

Detroit Tigers pitching prospect Tarik Skubal on the mound for the Double-A Erie SeaWolves (WDIV)

"It's a dominant group," Gardenhire said. "They all kind of match each other -- who can do better?"

Mize jumped up to the No. 2 overall prospect in baseball after starting the season in the 20s. Manning was near the middle of the top 100 prospects before vaulting into the top 30. Skubal was nowhere near the top 100 before dominating Double-A and forcing his way onto the list.

"Skubal's kind of really come out and really kind of lit it up and Manning's got great stuff," Gardenhire said.

Mize, Manning and Faedo were all first-round picks. Skubal was a ninth-round steal by the Tigers.

"I'm sure that most of these guys will probably be starting at Triple-A next year," Gardenhire said. "When they're at Triple-A, if they dominate there, then we'll probably get a chance to look at them maybe next year sometime. That would be fun."

The interview didn't even touch on Joey Wentz, the organization's No. 10 prospect since being acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Shane Greene trade.

Joey Wentz (26) of the Fire Frogs delivers a pitch to the plate during the Florida State League game between the Florida Fire Frogs and the Lakeland Flying Tigers on April 29, 2018, at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wentz has made four starts with the SeaWolves, allowing just five runs in 20.1 innings while striking out 27 batters and walking just three.

Wentz has induced swings and misses on 18% of his pitches since joining Erie. That rate isn't sustainable, but it shows why the Tigers were excited to add him to an already deep pitching crop.

The Tigers have plenty of talented pitching in the pipeline, but offense is scarce. The team is currently 39-90, the worst record in MLB by 3.5 games and five wins behind the Baltimore Orioles.

Here's a segment from the interview:


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