Saturday, February 21, 2009

Spring training position battles - the starting rotation

It's been a relatively quiet spring training for the Tigers so far. It appears that every player is in the best shape of his career and is determined to have a rebound season this year. Those are the type of stories we always hear at this time of year but this year more than others it seems. Anyway, they open up the schedule next Wednesday versus the Braves in Lakeland at 1:00. There are not a lot of battles for jobs among position players this spring but the starting rotation is yet to be decided. Here is how it looks:

Justin Verlander is a lock to start and will probably be the opening day starter. Whether or not he can regain his command is an important question though. He needs to improve his control this spring. I'll be watching his walk totals and pitch counts this spring. By pitch counts, I mean I don't want to see him throwing 90 pitches by the fifth inning.

Jeremy Bonderman will be in the rotation if he's healthy. There doesn't appear to be a of of concern that he won't be healthy but it's no guarantee he'll be 100% by opening day. The things to watch with him is whether his fastball velocity and the command of the slider is back. I'm optimistic about Bonderman but then I usually am.

Armando Galarraga will be another starter barring a total meltdown this spring. I'm a little less skeptical of him than most stat guys. I doubt he'll post another 3.73 ERA but I think he can be at least league average this year.

Edwin Jackson is the fourth starter virtually guaranteed a spot in the rotation. I still am not a fan of the trade which brought him to the Tigers but he does give them badly needed depth. The thing to watch with him is to see if he can continue to improve his control this spring after taking a step forward in that area last year.

Dontrelle Willis will probably be the fifth starter if he is fully healthy and not pitching like Steve Blass. I'm skeptical as to whether he has anything left but the reports so far have been positive. He is going to be one of the most interesting pitchers to watch this spring.

Nate Robertson would likely be next in line if Willis is a mess or if there is an injury to another starter. Robertson will never be great but I think he can get back to where he was prior to last year which is good enough for a fifth starter.

Zach Miner probably deserves to get a shot before Willis or Robertson but will likely begin the year in the bullpen.

Rick Porcello will get a look this spring but, unless he is lights out and there are a lot of injuries, he will almost surely be starting at Erie in 2009. He could be up to Detroit this summer though.

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