The Detroit Tigers have waited two years for this moment.
But right-hander Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft, has waited his lifetime.
Both parties got what they wanted Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, as Mize made his highly anticipated MLB debut. The organization expects him to become the cornerstone of the franchise for years to come, and he showed he has a shot at that status.
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Mize gave up three runs on seven hits in 4⅓ innings in his first MLB appearance, striking out seven hitters without a walk. He became the first Tiger in history with at least seven strikeouts and no walks in his major-league debut.
He put the Tigers in a position to get their 10th win of the season and snap a seven-game losing streak in a matchup against White Sox righty Dane Dunning, a first-round pick (No. 29 overall) from 2016 who also made his big-league debut.
“I always expect myself to put the team in a position to win,” Mize said Tuesday. “That’s what I’m gonna try to do. That’s what I’m trying to challenge myself to do — just enjoy the moment, be where my feet are and realize everything I’ve worked for is happening currently.
“So just, you know, try to enjoy it and try to win a ballgame, because that’s what everything is all about.”
The Tigers’ No. 2 prospect dominated in 21 starts and 109⅓ innings last season for High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie, posting a 2.55 ERA, 0.942 WHIP, 106 strikeouts and 23 walks.
And the 23-year-old continued his success at baseball’s highest level.
Here are three takeaways from Mize’s MLB debut:
Confidence brings control
Mize knew this outing would eventually occur, and he made sure to be ready. Unlike left-hander Tarik Skubal’s debut Tuesday, Mize took the mound with a sense of peace, which is likely a byproduct of being the No. 1 overall pick and preparing for this moment for the last two years.
Regardless, Mize wasn’t overwhelmed.
He was dominant.
After Mize recorded strikeouts with his splitter and cutter in the first inning, Edwin Encarnacion unloaded on a 415-foot homer to start the second inning — Mize hung a curveball, and the veteran slugger didn’t miss it. But even the ensuing double by Nomar Mazara didn’t get him down, as Mize responded with three consecutive outs to end the second frame.
Three of the four hard-hit balls Mize allowed in his debut came in the first two innings, to Jose Abreu (first inning), Encarnacion (second) and Mazara (second). He avoided a downward spiral and only allowed one hit, a weak infield single from Eloy Jimenez, in the third and fourth innings.
In the fifth, after the Tigers took a 3-1 lead on a three-run homer from Jeimer Candelario in the top of the inning, Mize gave up two runs on RBI singles from Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada.
Those two runs forced his exit at 73 pitches.
When Mize watched Skubal’s debut from the stands Tuesday, he picked a few hitters to throw his splitter against. Based on his performance, he made a perfect evaluation.
“I had that in the back of my mind already,” Mize said Tuesday. “But I still got to go out there and execute, so I kind of just have to see how it’s feeling tomorrow, but there’s definitely a few hitters where I think it can be a really big benefit for me.”
His first noteworthy splitter came on the fourth pitch to Moncada in the first inning. Overall, he used the standout pitch 19 times to produce 14 swings (with six misses). His splitter maxed out at 87.3 mph and averaged 85.9 mph.
In the fifth inning, Mize’s splitter didn’t drop as much as he would’ve liked against Zack Collins and Anderson, resulting in a double and single, respectively. The hits allowed the White Sox to trim the deficit to 3-2 with one out.
One batter later, Moncada singled on an 85.9 mph splitter in the strike zone to tie the game.
Despite missing on a few of his splitters late, there’s little doubt Mize will be able to command this pitch — and continue developing its dominance — for years to come.
Adjusting to Anderson, others
The Tigers breathed a sigh of relief in the first inning when Anderson, the leadoff hitter, flew out to right field.
For the first time in two games, Anderson didn’t start with a home run.
Anderson entered the game with a .379 batting average, and he was 11-for-19 (.579) with one double, one triple, four homers and six RBIs in four games against the Tigers this season. But that didn’t faze Mize, who was as confident as ever against one of the most feared hitters in the league.
In the third inning, he forced Anderson into a bind with a three-pitch strikeout — ending with an 87 mph splitter that dropped below the strike zone.
What made Mize’s debut so impressive was his ability to make adjustments as he went around the order a second time. He proved this with his strikeout of Anderson, and when he punched out Encarnacion swinging in the fourth on a slider, a pitch Mize purposefully tossed well outside of the zone to make him chase.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.