Today it was announced that the Detroit Tigers released right handed reliever David Pauley. Pauley, who was competing for a bullpen spot this season, was acquired by the Tigers along with Doug Fister last year before the deadline. After joining the Tigers, Pauley struggled as a Tiger down the stretch and eventually was left off the playoff roster in favor of Brad Penny. Despite his strong season with the Mariners in 2011, his tenure with Detroit hasn’t been anything that looks irreplaceable, and given his early release, it will allow the Tigers to take the rest of the spring to figure out who they want to take up the last bullpen spot.
There doesn’t appear to be a lack of options for the Tigers, as there are multiple relievers having strong springs right now.
Without going into too much detail, the release of Pauley does mean that there is some potential for the Tigers to add a 3rd lefty reliever at this point, especially with the performance of Andy Oliver thus far, who might fit well as the long guy. Oliver still is facing his command demons, and is a candidate for the 5th starter spot, so I wanted to focus more on the right handed options in this post. We can explore further options as the spring rolls on.
Right now, three guys are looking pretty good in camp from the right hand side. Jose Ortega, Bryan Villareal, and Luis Marte have all pitched pretty well to excellent this spring. Marte and Villareal in particular. At this point, I think Ortega is going to be a longshot to make the squad. He struggled last year in Toledo, and with the other two having big league experience they are going to have the advantage.
Villareal has the better stuff between him and Marte. Well, he has the better fastball. A guy who can regularly pump fastballs in the mid 90′s, Villareal is mainly a two pitch reliever. His big problem has been command, and even though he has been really good this spring, I am not sure he is going to fit on the roster. The Tigers are going to be looking more for a long reliever here, and even though Villareal has started, I don’t believe he has the full repertoire to go longer.
Right now, I have to believe that Luis Marte is the leader should the Tigers want to go with a 5th righty out of the pen. He is the candidate the offers the most flexibility. He has been in late inning situations, has been a starter, and has the repertoire to go beyond one inning. Marte owns four pitches, and despite having an average fastball, has shown a better ability to command his pitches better than Villareal as well.
There obviously is no guarantee it will be a right hander that gets the open spot in the bullpen, but one thing is for sure, the Tigers options have pitched well enough in the spring thus far to give the Tigers enough confidence to release Pauley.