Tigers demote struggling starter to relief role after disastrous run in the rotation

Cleveland Guardians v Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Guardians v Detroit Tigers / Duane Burleson/GettyImages

The Tigers have sort of figured out what to do about Kenta Maeda, whose 15-start, 7.26 ERA season so far has been the absolute bane of fans' existences, but fans won't exactly love their solution. Right from the start of the year, there's been ample cause to worry about a game's outcome every time he's stepped onto the mound, and he's never been able to prove that fans should feel any differently.

His 2 2/3 innings against the Guardians on Tuesday, during which time he gave up six runs, including two homers, was the last straw for Detroit. Manager A.J. Hinch told reporters on Thursday that their plan was to move Maeda to the bullpen "for the foreseeable future," effectively giving him the remaining balance of $14 million owed this season to appear in a backup role and get even more opportunities to invoke fans' outrage.

Tigers to reassign Kenta Maeda to the bullpen after disastrous first half of the season as a starter

Moving Maeda to the bullpen means that, from now on, he'll only get one or two innings to not screw up instead of four or five, but it does mean we'll be seeing him a lot more regularly, and there's no guarantee that he'll actually be able to handle one or two innings well based on his six-run 2 2/3 on Tuesday.

While Maeda's first time through an opponent's lineup is his best, he still gets poor results: batters hit for a .285 average and .872 OPS against him in their first plate appearance.

It feels like just the first slide down a slippery slope that could end with the Tigers dumping his contract instead of letting him spend two full years in Detroit, which would be painful for a penny-pinching front office but might be necessary if they want to clear a roster spot for a pitcher who can actually help the team.

This is an enormous fall from grace for Maeda, who also just picked up his 1,000th career strikeout and got very close to winning a Cy Young in 2020, but it's a necessary move for the Tigers, who will hopefully replace him with a pitcher who can actually pull some weight in the rotation.