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'It's awesome': Hat worn by Tigers' Tyler Alexander headed to Hall of Fame

Detroit — When folks talk about all those Tigers pitching prospects, you have to get pretty far down the list to see Tyler Alexander's name mentioned. If it's mentioned at all.

Yet, Alexander is the one who's already in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

OK, his hat is in the Hall of Fame, at least.

In his last outing, Alexander, a left-hander and a second-round pick out of TCU in 2015, made national headlines when he struck out an American League-record nine in a row, and 10 total in 3.2 innings. After the Aug. 2 game against the Cincinnati Reds, Cooperstown came calling, and Alexander was more than happy to oblige, at least to a point.

"They can have it," Alexander said Monday, ahead of a series against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. "They asked for the ball, too. I wanted the ball. I wanted something."

There's no telling when or how the Hall of Fame will display his hat. The Hall of Fame collects tons of game-used gear every season, much of it sent off to sit in its dark artifacts cave before being called up at some point to be part of a display.

Still, it's a neat experience, even for someone as laid-back as Alexander.

"I think it's awesome. It's really cool," he said. "I never really thought that would ever happen, so it's kind of a cool piece. Hopefully one day I can go there and check it out."

More: Tigers' Buck Farmer heads to injured list with strained groin; Beau Burrows called up

Alexander, 26, hasn't yet been to Cooperstown, but he's certainly emulated a Hall-of-Fame pitcher, particularly in that last outing.

He tied the AL record for most consecutive strikeouts (he shares that with former Tigers starter Doug Fister), and set the major-league record for most consecutive strikeouts by a reliever.

Now, Alexander is set to get back to starting, taking the mound Tuesday night against the White Sox. He'll take struggling Daniel Norris' spot in the rotation for at least the time being. Alexander prefers starting, but more than anything, he prefers being in the major leagues, so he wasn't about to lobby for his role.

"Whatever role I'm in, I'm happy to pitch," said Alexander, who's allowed one run while striking out 13 in four appearances, spanning 7.2 innings, this season, his second in the bigs. "Whatever capacity that is.

"But I do want to start. I've always said that. I wanted to get to the point where I've earned it, there's a spot open and they say, 'OK, get in there and let's see what you can do.'

"To let me slide in and let me do that, it feels really good."

More: Can Tigers' Nick Quintana justify his second-round status after enduring 'first-year jitters'?

Alexander can be stretched out to about 70-80 pitches, Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said Monday. So whatever that works out to, innings-wise, is how long Alexander will go Tuesday.

Alexander, of course, gets the White Sox in his first start of 2020.

He had eight starts in 2019, four against the White Sox — the Tigers lost three of them. This is a different-looking White Sox team, though Alexander's approach will remain the same.

"I'm gonna pitch how I've always pitched, and that's to contact," Alexander said.

"I don't know how I struck out nine in a row."

Jones eager to play

Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones was back in the lineup Monday night, a day after leaving a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates because of left abdominal tightness.

Gardenhire said he left Sunday's game out of caution, when he pulled at his rib cage after a swing. He talked with Jones after the game about not trying to be a hero.

"Not trying to be a John Wayne-type of thing," Gardenhire said. "If you're hurt, you're hurt.

"He says he's fine. He's been dealing with some nicks here and there, like a lot of guys are when you're playing every day.

"Put him in the lineup, let him go."

Jones, 28, likely suffered the strain by diving in the outfield, Gardenhire said. He's some some excellent defense this year, and has looked like an MVP at the plate, batting .333 with a 1.139 OPS.

Around the horn

The Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals are expected to play a doubleheader Thursday at Comerica Park, following last week's series postponement, but that's looking increasingly dicey given the Cardinals' ongoing COVID-19 situation. The Cardinals haven't played since last month, and have postponed this week's series against the Pirates.

Gardenhire said he hasn't received word yet on the fate of Thursday's games.

"I'm sure there's a lot being thought about," Gardenhire said. "We'll let them deal with that, and they'll let us know at a later time."

... New Tigers third-base coach Ramon Santiago is still getting use the transition from coaching first.

"Third base, you feel like you're in the game, every play," he said. "You've gotta trust your ability.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge."

... Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario went hitless in 17 July at-bats; he's 8-for-18 in August.

"You can see it, he's a lot freer person, his personality," Gardenhire said. "He's talking. He always talks, but he's talking a different talk right now. He's confident in what he's doing."

White Sox at Tigers

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

SCOUTING REPORT

LHP Gio Gonzalez (0-1, 7.71), White Sox: He's not off to a great start with his new team (two years, $5M), allowing 20 hits (three home runs) in 11.2 innings.

LHP Tyler Alexander (1-0, 1.17), Tigers: He's back in the rotation, after striking out nine in a row (and 10 total) during his last relief appearance.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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