I recently (last night) talked Tigers with Jay Simon on the Cadillac News’ Sports Weekly show. Be sure to check it out.
Spring training is here and in about a month, all of our questions will be answered. With the Tigers roster pretty much in place, the media will be looking for stories and one of those will be who will be the Tigers fifth starter. While a little more important then who the 25th man to make the team is, at the end of the day, the fifth starter is, more times than not, a combination of a few different hurlers. That mean who the fifth starter is on opening day won’t neccesarily be the guy that’s there in May much less by the end of the season.
Still, it gives us something to talk about and I’ll go through the list in the order of who I think has the highest probability of being the fifth starter in April.
1) Someone that isn’t on the team right now – I still think the Tigers are going to make a move to pick up another starter whether it’s via free agency or a trade. At one point in time, the Tigers were looking at Matt Garza, who would be a big pickup. Roy Oswalt is also still out there although from what I’ve heard, he’s turned down deals because he wants to stay closer to home. Two oft injured pitchers who are still out there are Rich Harden and Brandon Webb and my bet is, we could get one of those guys cheap although I don’t know where they’re at with their recoveries.
2) Drew Smyly – The Tigers second round pick in 2010, Smyly was dominant in eight games at Erie last year and he’s two years old than Turner. I think Turner is a better long term option in the rotation but I think Smyly scoots ahead of him here early in the season with a solid spring and if the Tigers doesn’t sign anyone, he’ll be the guy in the rotation.
3) Jacob Turner – I think Turner starts the season with the Hens for a couple of different reasons. I don’t think they’ll want to rush him and then they won’t be able to work with him because the Tigers are expected to contend. That’s a lot of pressure for a 20 year old (21 in May). I just think the Tigers would be better off starting him in the minors and having him prove his way up then starting him in the majors and seeing him falter and end back down in the minors anyway. Of course a strong spring would force the Tigers hand and that’s why he’s third on this list because the talent is there.
4) Andrew Oliver – Oliver had a rough 2011 season for the Hens and he needs to prove himself this year. He’s on the 40 man roster so they wouldn’t have to do any roster machinations but unless he’s lights out in spring training, he most likely starts the season with a repeat in Toledo. Also, he’s a lefty and that might give him a bump up because the Tigers don’t have a left handed starter in the rotation with their front four.
5) Adam Wilk – He’s another left hander and he was solid in his time for the Hens last year. Elbow problems meant he didn’t pitch winter ball so it’ll be interesting to see who his training works out. Unlike the other guys, he’s not a power pitcher but he’s been talked about so I’m throwing him on the list.
Well, pitchers and catchers have reported and they have their first workout today. The first full team workout is on Friday but random news has been filtering out already. Apparently Miguel Cabrera is in much better shape and that’s a good sign considering his new fielding duties. The other interesting piece of news is that Brandon Inge wants a shot at the second base job so that leaves three people vying for what’s probably going to be two jobs. You’ll have the “starter” who will most likely be the better hitter and the odds on favorite for that role is Ryan Raburn. Of course he’s had problems in the first half and he is also a better fill in than Inge in the outfield so I’d expect him to be a lock on the team.
Ramon Santiago is the late inning defensive specialist who gets the odd start now and then because he’s a switch hitter. Inge has to supplant one of these two guys and right now, the odds of doing that are kind of slim. He had a horrible season at the plate last year and if you look at his UZR/150 at third base, it’s gone down every season since his gold glove caliber season in 2006. That’s not a nice trend because Inge now looks like a good third baseman, not a great third baseman. Throw in a more demanding second base, and I think the transition is going to be tough so my guess is, he makes the roster, but without an everyday role.
The other interesting piece of news is Tony LaRussa is going to be helping out in camp. We all know about his friendship with Jim Leyland and it looks like he’s going to be doing a few different things including spending some time with Dave Dombrowski and doing some scouting.
Well, spring training is upon us. I’ll be going over some of the question marks the Tigers have and we’ll get to see these resolve themselves in camp. First game is a couple of weeks away.
We’re about a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training and since the Price Fielder signing, the Tigers have been pretty quiet. The team’s first full workout is February 24 and their first spring game is March 2, 2012 in their annual exhibition game against Florida Southern. Of course here in Detroit we got snow so it’s looking more like winter but it’s nice to see that we’re getting really close to being able to see some baseball.
Word on the street is that Miguel Cabrera has dropped weight. Alex Avila reported that he’s 20-25 lighter but of course we’ll see how he looks when camp starts up. If it’s true, that’s great and you figure it won’t sap his power too much but should help out his durability throughout the season, especially if he sticks at first base.
It’s also time to consider MLB.TV options. The past few years, I’ve gotten the full package, but last year I found myself listening to the Tigers on my phone so I’m wondering if it’s time to downgrade and just pay for the app on my iPhone. Then again, if I wanted to go all out, they’re also bundling the MiLB.TV package with MLB.TV. What I might do is start small and buy the app, then if I find the time to watch more baseball (my schedule may be changing sooner rather than later), I’ll pay for MLB.TV midseason. Of course I could also watch every Tigers game in 2012 with MLB Extra Innings on DIRECT TV.