Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fifth Starter job still up in the air

There are not a lot of positions at stake for the Tigers this spring. There are really only two - the fifth starter and the last bench spot. So, where does the battle for the fifth starter spot stand with three weeks until opening day:
  • Dontrelle Willis has been better than last year (how could he not be?) but still pretty awful. His control is still very poor - 5 walks and 2 hit batsmen in six innings. He hasn't been able to get the ball over with any consistency at all since he has come to the Tigers and it's hard to see him making the starting rotation. Barring some major progress in the next couple of weeks, I suspect they'll attempt to send him to the minors. With six Major League seasons under his belt, he does not have to accept the assignment but he might not have much choice.
  • After two bad outings, Robertson pitched three scoreless innings today allowing no walks. I'm not as pessimistic about Robertson as a lot of people but he'll need to have more outings like that to secure the job. He is also a bullpen candidate.
  • Zach Miner was the favorite among many internet fans before the spring started but he has not helped himself by allowing 10 runs and 18 hits in 10 innings. Although, he has pitched better as a starter during his career, the Tigers seem to like him in the long reliever role.
  • Rick Porcello has pitched well in limited action and some feel as if he is now the leading candidate for the final spot in the rotation. Lynn Henning seems very confident about that but I think it's just speculation on his part. Porcello was supposed to pitch tomorrow but a broken nail suffered in fielding practice has set him back a couple of days. Since I'll be in Lakeland on Monday or Tuesday, I'm hoping that's when he'll pitch.
If they had to make the decision right now, I would guess it would be Porcello. The season does not start until April 6 though so there is plenty of time left to make a decision. I think Rick needs to pitch really well almost every time out and the others need to fail (which so far they are). Otherwise, he'll start the season in Erie.

Of course, there is also the issue of Jeremy Bonderman's readiness to start the season. If he is unable to pitch the first week of the season, then they would need two of the above four pitchers in the rotation. The good news is that Bonderman pitched pain free in a simulated game today and is scheduled to make his first start on Thursday. If there are no more setbacks, he should be ready for the start of the season.

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