Joey Wentz Develops His Offspeed Pitches

Joey Wentz had a hunch it was coming.

The 22-year-old lefthander knew the Tigers had expressed interest in him. So Wentz and his Double-A Mississippi teammates had their eyes on the trade deadline ticker as they wondered who might be heading from the Braves to Detroit for closer Shane Greene.

“I really wasn’t too surprised that there was a trade, but I was a little surprised I was the one traded,” Wentz said. “Not for any other reason than it just kind of uproots you in about 30 minutes.”

Six months later, Wentz was getting ready to head to Lakeland, Fla., for big league camp.

At the time he joined the Tigers organization and was assigned to Double-A Erie last August, Wentz had put a challenging first half at Mississippi behind him. Over 13 starts, Wentz generated a 5.37 ERA with 4.2 walks per nine innings.

“My first half was pretty terrible,” Wentz laughed. “Then my second half was pretty good, I think. They were polar opposites in that regard.”

In Wentz’s mind, his improvement was tied to more focus on his offspeed pitches. Both his curveball and changeup grade as above-average, but giving them more exposure led Wentz to be more unpredictable to opposing hitters.

In 12 second-half starts, he recorded a 3.11 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 20 walks in 66.2 innings. He allowed just five home runs.

With more confidence in his changeup and his curve, Wentz used the offseason to embellish the two. That process included a week at the Driveline facility outside Seattle.

A supplemental first-round pick out of high school in Kansas in 2016, Wentz has visited Lakeland before as visiting player. He won’t over-complicate things when he returns this spring wearing the Old English “D” on his jersey.

“I’m just trying to improve every day,” Wentz said. “That’ll be my mindset. I’m not too worried about the peripherals or what else is going on. The rest will take care of itself in my mind.”


— The Tigers invited all their top pitching prospects to big league camp. The list includes Matt Manning, Casey Mize, Alex Faedo, Joey Wentz and Tarik Skubal. The Tigers also invited 24-year-old righthander Gerson Moreno, who threw a combined 23.2 innings over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery.

— Former Louisville lefthander Adam Wolf, a 2018 fifth-round pick, will miss the entire 2020 season after having surgery late in 2019. Wolf struggled to work in elongated stretches at low Class A West Michigan in 2019 and finished with a 6.23 ERA in 78 innings.

— After an extended period with a limited catching reserve, the Tigers have filled some of that pipeline at the upper levels with recent minor acquisitions. They purchased Eric Haase from the Indians and added Jhon Nunez from the Red Sox in exchange for lefthander Matt Hall.

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