His name has been all but lost among the Tigers’ top pitching prospects, out of sight and mind after breaking his foot in a freak accident last season.
But 25-year-old righthander Kyle Funkhouser is ready to reintroduce himself.
The 2016 fourth-rounder from Louisville had pitched his way from Double-A Erie to Triple-A Toledo. Then while walking with his family and friends through downtown Toledo in late July, Funkhouser rolled his ankle.
“I thought it was just a little bit of an ankle turn. I’ve been there before,” Funkhouser said. “But it was nothing like that. I woke up the next morning and I couldn’t put much weight onto my foot. Got some X-rays and the rest is history.”
Funkhouser sustained a fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his right foot and had season-ending surgery.
“In college, I never missed a start,” he said. “Last year, my arm and everything was healthy and I just kind of suffered a freak accident—or I would have gotten around the 150 innings I wanted.”
The Tigers consider Funkhouser to be the pitching prospect closest to handling a full-season workload. In 19 starts last season, he recorded a 3.96 ERA with 96 strikeouts and 49 walks in 97.2 innings. He made two starts with the Mud Hens and was tagged for six runs on eight hits and 10 walks in 8.2 innings.
“Overall, it was a good experience,” Funkhouser said, “but I wasn’t throwing as many strikes as I would have liked.”
The 6-foot-2 Funkhouser has a thick frame and throws four pitches: four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and changeup, with an occasional two-seam fastball mixed in. He reported to Lakeland, Fla., in early January at full health and already had began throwing bullpen sessions in preparation for the season.
With a good spring, Funkhouser will start in Toledo, one call away from Detroit.
“You definitely think about it,” Funkhouser said. “You don’t try to put too much pressure on yourself, but (reaching the big leagues) is definitely motivation, a little bit extra motivation to come out and have a good spring and carry that into the season.”