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Jack Flaherty rejoins rotation, Tigers chase series win over Guardians

Jun 27, 2024; Anaheim, California, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jack Flaherty (9) throws against the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers right-hander Jack Flaherty will make his first start this month in the finale of a four-game series against the visiting Cleveland Guardians on Thursday afternoon.

Flaherty hasn’t pitched since June 27 due to a lower back injury. He missed a start in early June while receiving a pain-killing injection. He received another injection following his last outing, when he gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Los Angeles Angels, his worst start since early April.

“Whatever you have to do to make things feel better,” Flaherty said of getting another injection. “I didn’t quite bounce back the same. We happened to be close enough where I might as well get it done if it’s going to help me feel better.”

Prior to the back issues, Flaherty (5-5, 3.24 ERA) pitched at any All-Star level. He allowed two or fewer runs in eight of his 15 starts. He also sports a spectacular 8.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio (115 strikeouts, 14 walks).

He signed a one-year contract with the Tigers as a free agent during the offseason and could be a valuable trade chip if he can prove he is healthy. That will make this start even more closely watched as the majors head toward the All-Star break.

“We have a lot of confidence that this shot did what it’s supposed to do, and now we move forward,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said, adding Flaherty’s latest bullpen session was “very encouraging.”

Hinch didn’t give a hard pitch count, but Flaherty last completed the sixth inning in a start on May 30.

Flaherty pitched against the Guardians on May 6 and took a hard-luck defeat despite holding them to two runs in six innings. In four career starts against Cleveland, he is 0-2 with a 3.27 ERA.

Jose Ramirez has struck out three times in 11 career at-bats vs. Flaherty. However, Ramirez also has two home runs out of his four career hits in their matchups.

Right-hander Spencer Howard (1-1, 5.63 ERA) will debut for the Guardians after being acquired from San Francisco for cash considerations last week.

Howard made seven appearances for the Giants this season, including two starts. He was designated for assignment by the Giants on June 30.

“Talking to some of our guys that checked him out and some of the Giants people, they really like him,” Cleveland manager Stephen Vogt said. “Good stuff, good makeup, sounds like he’s a great guy and somebody who gives us some length, so we’re really excited.”

Howard, 27, has also pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers. He is 4-12 with a 6.93 ERA in 45 career appearances (31 starts). Howard will be facing the Tigers for the first time.

Detroit can win the series with a victory on Thursday. The Tigers claimed their fifth win in six games by holding on for a 5-4 decision on Wednesday.

Tigers rookie Colt Keith extended his hitting streak to eight games with a first-inning RBI triple. He has scored 10 runs and knocked in eight during that stretch.

Detroit All-Star center fielder Riley Greene added two hits and made a diving catch in the eighth, robbing Angel Martinez of a hit.

“He’s in the middle of everything,” Hinch said of Greene. “He’s the heart and soul of this team in a lot of different ways, and he’s growing into more and more responsibility.”

Martinez drove in two runs with a ground-rule double one game after hitting his first career homer.

–Field Level Media

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