Sunday, March 29, 2009

Three Pitching Moves but Puzzle Not Solved

The Tigers made three moves involving their pitching staff today. First, they placed Joel Zumaya on the 15 day disabled list because of his shoulder problems. This is no surprise. He has been throwing again but it's no secret he would not be ready for the start of the regular season.

In another move, they sent left-hander Kyle Bloom back to the Pirates. As evidenced by his 8.44 ERA in five appearances, Bloom did not have a good spring so this move is also no surprise.

The more interesting move was Dontrelle Willis being placed on the disable list with an anxiety disorder revealed in a blood test. I found this interesting because I was not aware that anxiety disorders could be diagnosed through blood tests. A quick google search shows that this is a fairly new practice. Anyway, the doctors have told him that it is treatable and that he will be put on a regimen.

How treatable it actually is and how much of his pitching problems are caused by the disorder remain to be seen. Still, the fact that they found something and that they believe it is treatable is good news. Nothing will happen right away of course, but this gives us some hope that he can perhaps turn his career around.

The next move could involve Jeremy Bonderman as it was revealed yesterday he will likely miss his first start. Bonderman is apparently healthy but is still not at full strength and they want his velocity to improve before he pitches in regular season games. He is currently pitching in the high 80s which is a far cry from the mid 90s of the past. I suspect they want to see him at least throw in the 91-93 range consistently before putting him back into the rotation.

The other injury which could potentially impact the first week of the season is Nate Robertson's sprained thumb. It's not supposed to be serious but it's also not known when he will pitch again.

So who starts the first five games of the season? it has been announced that Justin Verlander will pitch on opening day and that Edwin Jackson will pitch game two. Armando Galarraga will probably pitch game five which is the Tigers home opener. This leaves games three and four in question. I would guess that Robertson would pitch one of those games if healthy. The other would likely go to Rick Porcello, Eddie Bonine or Zach Miner.

A couple of weeks ago it looked like Porcello would win the fifth starter job. Then he missed a start with a finger nail injury and hasn't pitched as well since then. I don't know if the nail injury has anything to do with it but he has been struggling with his control last couple of times out. He may need more time in the minors but the injuries may give him at least a start or two in the majors.

Last week, Jim Leyland told Miner that he would not be in the starting rotation so it seemed he would open the season in the bullpen. I still think he will be in the bullpen but a spot start is possible. Bonine has also put himself in the mix with a strong spring where he has given up just one run in 14 innings.

So, the starting rotation picture is as clear as mud. And that's just the first week. I suspect the rotation will be fluid for a while.

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