Casey Mize's successful return to the mound bodes well for Tigers future

It had been 721 days since Casey Mize saw an MLB mound, and Thursday in Queens, he returned at Citi Field to take on the Mets in a much-anticipated comeback for Tigers fans.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Casey Mize pitches in game one of a doubleheader against the New York Mets.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Casey Mize pitches in game one of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

After the Detroit Tigers announced that Casey Mize was making the Opening Day roster this year, there was plenty of anticipation for the first time he took the mound again. That was delayed a day after Wednesday's game between the Tigers and Mets was postponed. That was made up on Thursday as part of a doubleheader and Casey Mize was given the ball in Game 1.

There had to be reasonable expectations for Mize heading into start number one. Firstly, it had been 721 days since the youngster had taken the mound in an MLB game, and secondly, it was the first start of the season. There is reason to be excited as excitement and skepticism both grew in Motown. Would Casey be all the way back? Does Casey still have it? Will Casey have an impact on the game? All valid questions, but there is a need for realism.

Mize's first start went well. He may not have gone as deep as he wanted, pitching 4-1/3 innings, but there were good things to be seen. Mize gave up five hits and three earned runs while walking two and striking out four. Two of those runs were given up while Mize was on the mound. The other scored after Joey Wentz took over and allowed the inherited runner to score.

Three of those strikeouts were on his splitter, a pitch that has been critical in his career. It was nice to see that pitch be able to get hitters out again. His fastball also had a lot of life to it. He was mostly able to spot his fastball both up and down in the zone. Mize showed confidence in his entire arsenal, pounding the strike zone to the tune of 56 strikes in 87 total pitches. He even featured his curveball more than normal. Unfortunately, that pitch was what started his messy inning.

Casey Mize had a good return to the mound for the Detroit Tigers

In the third inning, Mize retired the first two batters of the inning before plunking Francisco Lindor with a curveball. That followed by a Pete Alonso single and Francisco Alvarez double would bring Lindor and Alonso around the bases and allow the Mets to take a 2-0 lead. Outside of the two-out struggle in the third inning, Mize looked like himself.

He was cool, calm, and collected on the mound, spotted his fastball nicely, and despite the cold weather had a decent feel for his splitter. You could tell that the cold conditions had an effect on the feel of his splitter, a challenging pitch to throw in the cold.

The biggest thing for Mize will be for him to continue to gain confidence in his splitter, and as the weather breaks, that should be able to happen. If he can gain consistency in that pitch and can put the curveball into the arsenal effectively, he should be on his way to a good comeback season, as long as he stays healthy.