Detroit Tigers: Bullpen has taken a few steps back in 2023
By Tyler Kotila
Detroit Tigers bullpen has taken steps in the wrong direction.
The Detroit Tigers are off and running on the 2023 season. It's been a handful of games since things kicked off, so it's too early to jump to conclusions, but it's time for the overreactions. One of the biggest things that is concerning so far is the team's bullpen.
The Detroit Tigers pieced together a serviceable bullpen in 2022. In fact, at times, it looked like they had some pieces that could provide high-leverage relief roles as needed. But the team has moved on and switched things up.
This off-season, the Detroit Tigers traded reliever Joe Jiménez, to the Atlanta Braves in the deal that brought Justyn-Henry Malloy to the Tigers. They turned around and dumped their closer as well, opting to clean house with the bullpen.
The team acquired Nick Maton, Donny Sands, and Matt Vierling from the Philadelphia Phillies, in exchange for Kody Clemens and Gregory Soto. The team opted to get something for the flame-throwing left-hander since competing in 2023 is out of the question.
That leaves them with two pieces of the "serviceable" part of the bullpen from 2022. Alex Lange has evolved into the team's closer role, which is a massive win for them as he will continue to play a significant role in the Tigers' late-game strategy. He's also perhaps the best option for the ninth-inning role.
José Cisnero is another one of those pieces that were valuable in 2022. But so far, things have not been great, and the right-handed pitcher may not be sticking around long on this 2023 roster if he does not get things together in terms of his performance.
Jason Foley has struggled and is someone who also returns to the team's bullpen. But like Cisnero, his performance has also been shaky and concerning at times. The Tigers' pitching staff was a bright spot in 2022.
Take that with a grain of salt, as half of them were hurt, but the team kept having to call on a cast of unlikely arms who seemed to get it done for them every time and at least be serviceable. For the Tigers in 2023, that is not the case.
There is not a huge stable of arms to call upon and use out of the bullpen. There may not be much to look forward to in Tigers games in 2023, but it will be worrisome when the call is to the bullpen. Frankly, the only arm I trust out of the bullpen is Alex Lange.
Rule-5 draftee Mason Englert was strong in the Tigers' recent extra-innings win over the Astros, but he's making a big jump to the big leagues. He's also traditionally a starter, so it will be interesting to see how he factors into the bullpen in 2023.
One thing seems to be certain, though. The Tigers' bullpen will not be the same as it was in 2022. They could be back to a time when the bullpen was absolutely putrid, as was the case for the last few seasons before 2022.