Kenta Maeda's latest blowup may warrant big changes for Tigers rotation

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Guardians
Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Guardians / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Guardians put on a show for fans on Wednesday in what might've been the Tigers' most compelling, complete game of the season so far. Andy Ibáñez kicked things off well when he hit a leadoff home run in the first, but the Guardians quickly responded with a two-run double for Will Brennan.

What followed was a topsy-turvy first few innings, featuring another home run for Ibáñez, a Javy Báez RBI single, and an incredible major league comeback for Ryan Vilade, almost three years after he made his debut in 2021.

But sandwiched in between some sorely needed offensive outbursts from the Tigers lineup was a truly terrible outing for Kenta Maeda in his seventh start of the year. He only lasted two innings because he was getting shelled by the Guardians who, after Brennan's double, put up five more runs in the second on a double, a two-run single, and a Josh Naylor home run to cap it off. By the time Maeda was taken out, the score was 7-5, Guardians.

Maeda has been one of the shakiest pieces of the otherwise incredibly solid Tigers pitching staff. He was coming off of two pretty good back-to-back starts, but he couldn't keep the streak going.

Meanwhile, 27th man Matt Manning has looked more solid whenever he's been called back up to the majors on double-header days. Might the Tigers need to explore some drastic measures?

Could Kenta Maeda's two inning, seven run outing for Tigers lead to a more full-time call-up for Matt Manning?

Maeda's 2024 so far has been filled with extremes. His first start as a Tiger only lasted 3 1/3 innings because he gave up seven hits and six runs; his start on April 23 lasted five innings and he only gave up three hits and no runs. All told, he has a 6.75 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over 30 2/3 innings, making him by far the worst-performing Tigers starter.

Manning has gotten three starts in the majors this year as the Tigers' de facto sixth starter. His first start, in Game 2 of a double-header against the Mets, featured 5 2/3 no-hit innings. His other two weren't quite as excellent, but he was able to last longer in those starts without giving up quite as many hits as Maeda. Manning also looked good in his last Triple-A start, pitching five innings with two runs.

Despite the offensive thrill we got on Tuesday and an eventual W for the Tigers, Maeda's performance can't be overlooked. While trading him seems a little impossible given how he's fared early, the Tigers may need to bite a bullet and make some hard decisions to accommodate Manning and sit Maeda before things get worse.