The Detroit Tigers said they have selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Sawyer Gipson-Long, who will make his Major League debut Sunday against the Chicago White Sox. Acquired just 13 months ago in a trade with the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Michael Fulmer, Gipson-Long has been one of the most consistent starters in the Tigers' minor league system in 2023.
Between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this season, Gipson-Long has pitched 99.2 innings and struck out 126 batters, setting a new career high with a 10.52 strikeouts per nine innings. His best minor league start came on Aug. 18, when he allowed just a bloop single and struck out 12 against Omaha in Toledo.
So, what has been the big difference for Gipson-Long this season? He added an old pitch, a sinker he threw in college during the spring training, and learned a cutter while pitching in Double-A Erie in May. What was impressive was how short of a turnaround Long learned the pitch.
While in between starts In Erie back in May, Detroit Tigers pitching coordinator Gabe Rivas pulled Long aside and told him he would miss his next start to learn how to throw a cutter. Long embraced the challenge, and after a few experiments with grip, he found a good rhythm with the pitch. As a result, it is now a pitch that helps against left-handed hitters.
Long also tweaked his grip to his changeup, which has played off well with his four-seamer. Instead of a pitcher throwing to contact, with his cutter, slider, change and four-seamer, he can throw batters off-balance more in the zone, resulting in more strikeouts this season.
The Tigers have yet to announce a corresponding move on the 40-man roster, but Long will be at Comerica Park on Saturday. The Tigers rotation will now consist of Eduardo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, and Reese Olson, with the plan of Alex Faedo pitching out of the bullpen with left-hander Joey Wentz.
Given that the Tigers have recently lost out on Matt Manning after he was struck in the foot by a come-backer from Giancarlo Stanton, the promotion allows them to add some pitching depth and reward Gipson-Long with the promotion.