Right-hander Casey Mize understands the anticipation among Detroit Tigers fans entering his major league debut on Wednesday.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft expects plenty from himself, too.
Still, Mize is working to maintain balance — and perhaps even smile — as he prepares to face the host Chicago White Sox with the Tigers trying to snap a seven-game losing streak.
“I always expect myself to put this team in a position to win, and that’s what I’m going to try to do,” Mize said. “But I expect I’m going to have a lot of fun. That’s really what I’m going to challenge myself to do, to enjoy the moment, be where my feet are and just realize that everything I’ve worked for is happening currently.”
Mize, 23, shined during spring training and summer camp, and his resume of 26 minor league starts includes a no-hitter with Double-A Erie.
As the Tigers’ struggles continued during his early years with the organization, Mize yearned for a promotion to the majors, eager to award Detroit’s faith in him.
“There was a lot of opportunity that arose, and I felt like I could have helped out,” Mize said. “But what else could I do other than work really hard and continue to perform well? I knew my day would come.”
On Saturday, Mize got his wish while watching the Tigers’ game with his wife from their downtown Detroit home.
Detroit vice president of player development David Littlefield called with the news: Mize was coming up to join the Tigers.
Mize pitched collegiately at Auburn and is set to face a former Southeastern Conference counterpart Wednesday. White Sox righty Dane Dunning, a Florida product, also is slated to make his major league debut.
The White Sox didn’t formally announce the move until after Tuesday’s 10-4 victory. However, general manager Rick Hahn hinted at a meeting between Mize and Dunning, a 2016 first-round pick of the Washington Nationals that Chicago acquired via trade, when he addressed reporters Monday.
“I don’t like to announce roster moves in advance of when they happen, certainly not days in advance,” Hahn said. “I think that tempts the baseball gods too much to derail things, and they’ve been kind of cruel to us already this year. But I think we’ll probably have a pretty good pitching matchup going on here Wednesday night between some young guys.”
The White Sox have won three in a row and five of seven as they aim to contend with Minnesota and Cleveland for the American League Central crown. Mize will face a challenge from the get-go, as White Sox leadoff man Tim Anderson has homered to begin the first two games of the series and went 4-for-5 with three RBIs Tuesday.
While the Tigers still harbor postseason aspirations thanks in part to a hot start, manager Ron Gardenhire views the recent promotions of Mize, left-hander Tarik Skubal (who took the loss Tuesday), and third baseman Isaac Paredes as a prelude of future attractions.
“When I took the job, I knew exactly what I was getting into — a rebuild,” Gardenhire said. “It’s been an eye-opener, it’s been fun. It’s hard when you’re not winning enough games, but this is the fun part.
“Hopefully, it’s going to turn into something wonderful for Tiger fans, and even after I’m long, long gone from this job, they’ll still be winning baseball games. And I’ll be proud of them.”
White Sox center fielder Luis Robert is day-to-day with right hand soreness. Tigers right fielder Harold Castro (left hamstring) is set to undergo an MRI exam.
–Field Level Media