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.