Living his best life
When Tigers starter Casey Mize isn't preparing for the 2022 season, he's busy playing left-handed tennis and taking the championship in fantasy football.
By Jerry Crasnick
As Casey Mize gears up for his second full season with the Detroit Tigers, he’s reveling in the joys of home ownership and heightened expectations.
Mize, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 MLB amateur draft out of Auburn University, logged a 7-9 record with a 3.71 ERA in 150 1/3 innings over 30 starts in 2021. It was an educational and formative year for him and the Tigers, who overcame some growth pains and rallied from a 9-24 start to finish 77-85.
After spending three winters in Nashville, where he worked out at a facility run by his agents, the Bledsoe brothers, Mize relocated to St. Petersburg, Fla., with his wife, Tali, in 2021. “I love Nashville,’’ he said. “But I’m loving the warm weather and the water and being able to play catch outside more.’’
After taking a couples trip to Cabo San Lucas with teammates Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal in November followed by nine days in Costa Rica with Tali, Mize plunged into his offseason routine. Amid the disruption from the lockout, he’s maintained a busy regimen of weight training, physical therapy and various baseball activities by day, and TV binge-watching at night.
“We just finished watching ‘Yellowstone,’ and it was awesome,’’ he said. “I want to be a cowboy now.’’
Mize recently caught up with the MLBPA and shared some insights into his offseason activities -- baseball and otherwise. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
SO AS A NEW HOMEOWNER, ARE YOU BUSY MOWING THE LAWN AND FIXING LEAKY FAUCETS?
I'm not as handy as I should be. I mean, I grew up cutting my grass and weeding and all that stuff, but I just have a little-bitty patch of front yard here with a ton of plants and I don’t know what they’re supposed to look like or how to tend to them. So I have a landscaping company that comes out and does that.
WHAT'S A TYPICAL OFFSEASON DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
Normally, I’m up about 6 a.m. I’ll eat breakfast and then work out until about noon. I’ll do my mobility and stretching for (about 90 minutes), then go to physical therapy three days a week. I’ll get a lift in and play catch, and the order can be jumbled up sometimes depending upon the day. I’m doing something five or six days a week.
I have the rest of the afternoon to do what I please. My wife and I play tennis probably twice a week. I tried playing right-handed once and I was like, ‘I’m so tired and sore, I’m not doing that anymore,’ so I’ve learned to play left-handed. We ride bikes around the neighborhood and down to the water and go for walks. My wife loves to cook, so I enjoy her home cooking in the evenings. We’ll watch a movie or something and then go to sleep by 9 or 10. Then we wake up the next day and do it all again.
UP AT 6 A.M.? THAT’S AMBITIOUS.
Yeah, I don’t mind getting up early. This morning I had PT at 6, so I got up at 5. During the weekends, I’ll sleep until 8 or 9.
HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS YOUR LEFT-HANDED TENNIS GAME?
I’m serviceable. I can hit it back over the net. But it’s not like I’m putting any spin on it or hitting it 100. I have a friend who's a pro tennis player and I can't hang with him even right-handed. I’ve never done anything left-handed, so this is definitely a work in progress.
YOUR WIFE WAS A SOFTBALL PLAYER AT AUBURN, SO THAT’S A LOT OF ATHLETICISM UNDER ONE ROOF.
If we have kids, I would think they would be pretty athletic. If I have a light day, she’ll play catch with me. She's a good catch partner. She's good at tennis and definitely active, so she keeps me moving.
AS AN ALABAMA NATIVE AND AN AUBURN GUY, DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE NFL TEAM?
When I was young, I didn't have a team until Cam Newton was drafted. I was like, ‘All right, I'm gonna be a Panthers fan,’ because I loved Cam Newton. Then I got to Nashville and I cheered on the Titans for a little bit. Now I’m really big into fantasy football, so I’ve started following players more than teams. I'm kind of in between teams, but I think I'll settle in and be a Bucs fan from here on out.
HOW’S YOUR FANTASY FOOTBALL GENERAL MANAGING ACUMEN?
I started playing five or six years ago. My team name is ‘The Hills Have Mize.’ Historically, I've been a really, really bad fantasy football player. But this year I won the Tigers’ league and I was so pumped about it. Diontae Johnson got me like 17 points on Monday Night Football and I beat Ian Krol 170-168. It was worst-to-first for me, so it was amazing.
WERE YOU A GRACIOUS WINNER?
I was pretty gracious. I had been a pretty horrible player prior to this, so I didn't want to go bragging like crazy. I'm sure I’ll have some things to say to the guys in spring training. And I'm definitely enjoying the Venmos they're sending over to me to pay up. I'll rag them a little bit about that.
YOU RECENTLY WENT ON A COUPLES VACATION WITH TARIK SKUBAL AND MATT MANNING. HOW IMPORTANT IS BONDING AS A STARTING ROTATION OFF THE FIELD?
I played with Tarik and Matt and Alex (Faedo) and Joey (Wentz) in the minors, and that's helped us build a camaraderie and a comfortability together. When we're in the dugout watching each other pitch, there are things we've noticed and learned about each other. If you know somebody well enough, you can tell if maybe they’re off a little bit mentally. You can see when things are going great and when they aren’t and kind of address that. I think it can benefit you on and off the field.
IN HINDSIGHT, HOW DO YOU ASSESS THE STRIDES THAT YOU AND THE TIGERS MADE IN 2021?
“Growth’’ is a great way to describe our season as a whole. We got off to a really tough start and then played above .500 baseball the rest of the way. On an individual scale, it was the most innings I’ve ever thrown, the most starts I’ve ever made, and the longest season I’ve ever had. I think we definitely took some steps forward and made enough noise to bring in some awesome free agents like Javy Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez prior to the lockout, and we traded for Tucker Barnhardt as well. Our growth during the season allowed for a lot of those acquisitions to be made. It was definitely a good season to set us up for next season and what's to come over the next few years.
HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO CONNECT WITH BARNHARDT? WHAT DOES A VETERAN CATCHER LIKE THAT MEAN FOR YOUR DEVELOPMENT AND THE STAFF OVERALL?
I reached out to Tucker when he first got traded over. I told him I’m ready to learn from him and work with him. He’s caught a lot of quality pitchers and I think he’ll be able to provide value from a veteran standpoint. He’s faced different teams and hitters so many times and he’ll be able to really command the game from behind the plate. I'm looking forward to putting my trust in him to do the game-planning and prepping and then just rolling out there with him and competing.
OBVIOUSLY, IT'S BEEN A DIFFERENT KIND OF OFFSEASON BECAUSE OF THE LOCKOUT. HOW HAVE YOU NAVIGATED THE CHANGES TO YOUR ROUTINE?
When I started my offseason training I was going up to Lakeland and using our facility. It’s a world class facility and we have a lot of big-league staff who live in the area and they were able to come in and work with me. When the owners decided to lock us out and we couldn’t use the facilities anymore, it was definitely a negative. But we knew that was a possibility and I treated it like a probability. I was able to link up with some people down here in St. Petersburg and Tampa and do everything I normally do. But it’s a drive here and a drive there. It’s not as convenient, for sure.
I feel for the rehab guys. When I think of Alex Faedo, Spencer Turnbull and the guys in the middle of Tommy John rehab right now, they could definitely benefit from being in the facilities and working with our trainers. They’re still getting quality work in outside and they’ll be good to go. But it’s something we’re all having to navigate.
AS A FORMER NO. 1 PICK WHO’S FOLLOWING THE CBA TALKS, HAVE YOU GIVEN ANY THOUGHT TO YOUR ROLE AS A POTENTIAL PLAYER VOICE AND A LEADER?
It's something I'm interested in. I definitely want to be a part of it. My stance has been, ‘My time will come to be a leader in that area.’ I've definitely leaned on the veterans up to this point. I just finished up my second season, so I don’t want to be too outgoing and outspoken about it. I have a lot to learn before I can do that. But this is an interesting place to start. I'm learning throughout this process and preparing to potentially be a leader and maybe be the rep for our team in the future. I care about players -- future, past and present. I want to be able to protect that and learn more about it and help where I can.
STARTING PITCHERS SEEM TO GRAVITATE TO THAT TEAM REP ROLE. IS IT BECAUSE THEY HAVE MORE FREE TIME OR BECAUSE PITCHERS ARE JUST SO SMART?
If you think about it, the game doesn't start until we do. The pitch doesn’t happen until we throw it, so we control that narrative a little bit. But we definitely have more time sit back and just watch and think about things while everybody else is working their tail off or hanging out chatting.
AS YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THE 2022 SEASON, DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR GOALS IN MIND?
The thing I really care about is innings. As unpopular as that's becoming for starting pitchers, I think my job is to log innings, so I value that. Most of my goals are very short-term. I'll think about what I need to do today, and check all these boxes and work hard to prepare. I know I need to throw my bullpen today. Lift. Run. Play catch. Get treatment. Whatever it is.
When I look long-term, a lot of my goals are team-oriented. Obviously for us this year, we want to make the playoffs and win the World Series. And I guess if you want to talk about individual goals, World Series MVP would be nice. That's about as individualized as it will get for me.