Detroit Tigers bullpen arms Kyle Funkhouser, Beau Burrows, and Anthony Castro all made their MLB debut Monday night
The Detroit Tigers opened the season at Comerica Park with new faces. Not only the foursome of one-year deals brought in by the club to create a respectable major league lineup, but there are also a couple rookies who have often been lumped together due to their level, development progression, and stuff–and a journeyman through the Tigers system who finally got his shot.
The first two of the crew were highly-regarded from the moment they were drafted. Burrows, a prep arm out of Weatherford High School in Texas; Funkhouser, a college arm at Louisville. Both drafted as polished right-handed starting pitchers known for their bulldog mentality. It is easy to see why fans and those who follow the game have paired the two together.
How fitting, then, that both would make their respective Major League debuts on the same night; one after the other? Kyle Funkhouser would be the first in line, entering the game after a rough return by Michael Fulmer. He was charged with getting the last out in the third and would make it through the first two outs of the fourth before getting yanked for Burrows, who threw 2.1 innings himself.
Anthony Castro found himself entering the game in the ninth inning with the game already at hand. Not the worst way to get his feet wet for his first big league appearance. Between Tommy John surgery, a demotion, a move from starting to the bullpen in the minor leagues, a pitch mix change, and some questionable usage by the organization, seeing Castro scrape his way to Comerica Park was a welcomed and warm sight.
The lines for all three were not pretty. For Funkhouser: 1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K. Although Funkhouser didn’t give up a home run, he was hit hard; giving up hard hit doubles to Franchy Cordero and Whit Merrifield in the game. For Burrows: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K. Burrows gave up a couple bombs, most notably an opposite-field bomb by Jorge Soler.
For Castro: 1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. Anthony Castro gave up a two-run shot himself in a game which featured six Kansas City Royals round-trippers; his home run to the former highly-regarded prospect Brett Phillips; but would also strike out the former mega-prospect Bubba Starling.
What We Learned About Funkhouser
With young players, especially in their debut, the takeaways come from the flashes over the results. For Funkhouser, the stuff stood out. His fastball ran 94-96 his entire outing and featured good run inside to right-handed batters. His slider, while inconsistent, was thrown for strikes and used as an out pitch with two strikes. His change up was not used much, but proved when it was featured that it is a usable big league pitch–he threw the pitch with good fading action in a variety of counts and showed the ability to throw it for strikes as well.
Consistency will be key for Funkhouser, especially with his secondaries, to his stay with the big league club. He is likely more well-suited for a standard middle relief role than he would be following an opener, but there was enough to get excited about to see how he progresses. Specifically, look for Funkhouser to try to change the eye level of hitters with his fastball in the coming appearances.
What We Learned About Beau Burrows
Burrows had a couple strong showings in summer camp; and given his new transition to the bullpen, I was curious to see how his pitch mix would play in a bullpen role. Unfortunately, thus far, it was much of what we had seen in his starting appearances. His fastball ran from 92-94 with moderate life; his secondaries did not move much outside of a couple nice change ups down in the zone against left-handed hitters.
It is early in the season, so continue to watch how his fastball velocity develops as he grows accustomed to his bullpen home. if it is even a tick above where it was today, he becomes more interesting as a middle relief option for the Detroit Tigers
What We Learned About Anthony Castro
The very fact that Anthony Castro hit the big leagues and made an appearance is a feat in itself and deserves praise for a player who had to persevere to make it as far as he has. His fastball was a little light like Burrows; he ran around 92-94 with his fastball, but I was encouraged by the run he showed with the pitch despite some command struggles.
The slider is already good enough to get MLB hitters out; his success will hinge on his ability to command the fastball; although adding some velocity with the pitch as the season progresses might allow him to get away with some shortcomings with control.
Regardless of result, it was exciting to see a trio of Detroit Tigers prospects travel through the minor leagues and make their respective major league debuts and view a dream realized live. We can only hope to witness second-hand these achievements a few more times through the remainder of the season. I am looking at you, Casey Mize.