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Detroit Tigers Option Former Closer To Triple-A After Wednesday’s Meltdown

The Detroit Tigers announced on Thursday that right-handed pitcher Alex Lange was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Though he was one of, if not their best, reliever over the past couple of years, Lange has struggled this season in 21 games. To take his spot on the roster, Detroit recalled fellow righty Mason Englert.

In 21 games this year, Lange has tossed 18 2/3 innings with a 4.34 ERA. Lange has done some things well, including not giving up homers (zero on the year), generating whiffs, and limiting barrels. However, his struggles stem from an unsustainable walk rate (18.9 percent) that is the worst in Major League Baseball.

Compounding his walk issue is a stark decline in strikeout rate, ground ball rate, and Hard-Hit percentage. Strikeouts and double plays can help a wild pitcher negate walks. Weak contact is less likely to produce a batted ball event that leads to runners advancing multiple bases and scoring.

However, the 2017 first-round pick has done none of these things well in 2024. The Tigers will option Lange to the minors in hopes that he can figure out his issues away from a high-pressure environment.

Detroit Tigers Option Alex Lange To The Minor Leagues

From 2022-23, Lange established himself as a force in the Tigers bullpen. In 138 games, the righty finished 56 games (26 saves) while posting a 3.55 ERA (117 ERA+) with 161 strikeouts and 78 walks in 129 1/3 innings. Detroit expected to contend for a playoff spot this season, and having a lockdown closer helped fuel those goals.

Unfortunately, 2024 has been a mess for Lange, and manager A.J. Hinch lost some faith in him. Hinch quickly removed Lange from the closer role and relegated him to lower-leverage situations. With Lange continuing to struggle, Detroit’s only choice was to option him to the minors.

“His role has changed a little bit,” Hinch said, “and that was due to his struggles with the strike zone, and as it continued [on Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals] he started falling further and further behind in the role category in a bullpen, we decided the best place for him to go work on that is in Toledo.”

Lange experienced a meltdown, both in performance and emotionally, in Kansas City on Wednesday. In the seventh inning, he allowed four runs on three hits, two walks, and one hit batter. The worst part of his performance was when Lange requested a new ball and then launched the old one into the netting above the Tigers dugout.

This caused Hinch to rush out to the mound and seemingly scold his reliever. Hinch told reporters on Thursday that the demotion was not a reactionary move to anything that happened on Wednesday. Whether that’s true or not, the manager revealed that Lange might return quickly if he shows better control in Triple-A.

Main Photo Credits: Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK


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