Mar. 13, 2012; Melbourne, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Duane Below (64) pitches in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Tigers 5th Starter Spot Still Unclear

It’s still relatively early in spring training, however, by the end of next week we won’t be saying that any longer. Tigers management has to wonder, is anyone going to step forward and take hold of the 5th spot in the rotation? After getting the umm……pleasure (?) of watching Duane Below pitch at one in the morning today, it seems that my personal favorite to win the job isn’t interested in taking hold of the spot early.

Watching Below last night wasn’t painful. He only allowed one run after all. It wasn’t a pleasant experience either though, and showed why the Tigers were themselves hoping beyond hope that top prospect Jacob Turner would just dominate and run with this thing. However, that hasn’t happened and Turner looks more ready to join Toledo than he does Detroit, especially now that he is dealing with “dead arm”. There is a joke somewhere about Below suffering from the same thing, if it wasn’t for the even softer tossing Adam Wilk following him up last night.

Below’s big trouble last night was command. Walking guys isn’t going to make you a favorite of Tigers skipper Jim Leyland, or probably any Manager for that matter. Even though he walked a few last night, I am not sure command is Below’s biggest problem. He got ahead of a lot of hitters. Putting them away is the issue. Below has a solid repertoire but isn’t going to rack up huge strikeout numbers, meaning he is going to have to live on the corners, and hope guys hit it at his defenders.

That being said, I think he is still the frontrunner at this point.

Andy Oliver and Drew Smyly are the other two guys right now that I believe are still in the mix. Both guys have done well enough, with Oliver probably being the most impressive. The trouble with Oliver is his wildness and his inconsistency. Until the Tigers see him go out and command his pitches 3 or 4 times in a row, I have to think he isn’t going to win this job. Oliver definitely has the best stuff out of the 3, so he has an advantage there, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him walk 4 batters in 2 innings his next time out either.

Smyly is definitely intriguing. He isn’t on the 40 man roster at this point, so it would be easy for the Tigers to just send him back down, but he has been nothing short of impressive since joining the Tigers organization. He has quality stuff, and for the most part isn’t afraid to throw strikes with it. People should take notice the Tigers opened up two spots on their 40 man just the other day by releasing David Pauley and moving Victor Martinez to the 60 day DL. Maybe one of these is for Smyly?

Maybe this signals that Detroit is looking to take on someone from the outside as well. Who knows?

The next 10 days are going to very important to guys like Below, Smyly, and Oliver. Their next couple appearances could very well determine who the 5th starter is heading into the regular season. Adam Wilk is still out there competing, but given his lack of stuff, I just don’t see him winning the job (sorry Chris).

Let the best man win whoever that is. Just throw some strikes please.

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Tags: Adam Wilk Andy Oliver Drew Smyly Duane Below Jacob Turner

  • ChrisHannum

    I don’t think Below and Wilk have knocked themselves out of the running yet, though I would seed them 3 & 4. If Crosby was ever really in it (for the rotation), his wildness today and earlier has to have knocked him out. As you know, the guy I want to see win it is Wilk – a sentiment that I doubt anyone else shares. He’s a finished product, not a developing one and has nothing to gain and nothing to prove in Toledo. Maybe he really doesn’t have the stuff to make it in the big leagues, but there is only one way to know.

    • MCBjohnverburg

       @ChrisHannum I think Crosby and Turner are both done as of right now, and will be heading to minor league camp soon.

      • JAYRC_MCB

         @MCBjohnverburg  @ChrisHannum I agree. It’s not a bad thing though. Both of them can learn a lot from some more time down on the farm.


    Baring a major meltdown, Oliver will find himself on the 25 man roster. I’m still uncertain if it’s a starting or bullpen role though. This is the best his slider has looked in a long time. He’s not as wild and he seems much more comfortable on the mound. Sure it’s small sample size, regardless, he’s scoreless through 7 innings, allowing just 4 base runners. 
    Beyond Oliver, I think Below and Smyly are pretty close. Below obviously has the edge because of experience. I really like Wilk for the long relief role. It gets tricky though. You’d think that Below claims it by default if someone else grabs the 5th starter role. Guys like Marte and Hoffman are having solid springs but they seem almost doomed for Toledo.
    It’s a good problem to have, still there’s only two seats and a lot of solid options.

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  • Inge4mvp

    I think Andrew Oliver deserves another shot.

  • Sam Genson

    I don’t think they go outside for help…at least not yet.  I think Oliver has the lead over Smyly (not sure why, just a gut feeling).  With Turner out of the running, I expect this to be one of the very last decisions in camp.

  • ChrisHannum

    It’s actually easy to forget that last spring Oliver was the guy we were waiting to see in Detroit. There were some that were not too excited to see Penny signed that would have preferred to see Oliver get the job to start the season. Even among those who liked the Penny deal, seems like most figured he would never last the season and Oliver would still be making 15-20 starts. He was the first guy called up. Then he stopped throwing strikes…