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

Below, Below, Below.

Duane Below had an excellent opportunity to seize that roster spot today, but he did not take advantage. He struggled with control (walking 4) and keeping the ball down (5 flies to only 2 grounders). Though Below failed to make it through the 4th (and might have been pulled at the same point had it been a regular season game) his final line of (only) 3 earned isn’t so terrible, and won’t inflate his spring ERA so much as to make him appear unfit for the job. Part of that would be due to some great relief from Luis Marte – two strikeouts to end the fourth that stranded Endy Chavez on first. Nonetheless, Below’s terrible spring peripherals are getting significantly worse after today.

So, Below did just enough prior to today to make him a “maybe” and he did nothing today to improve that, if anything he’s now an “eh, maybe”. He’s unlikely to get another shot to leave a more favorable impression in the decision makers minds before that 5th starter decision gets made – so what are we left with? Smyly will get one more start. If he’s lights out, maybe they’ll figure that not only is he ready but he’s not going to be fazed by the pressure – since your one last chance to make the big league squad is obviously a high-pressure situation. What if Smyly flops? Or worse yet, what if Smyly is ‘meh’? Odds are still on Below, since he’s the more experienced candidate, but how confident will you feel that he can get the job done on the road against a lineup stacked with righties?

Personally, I’d have to say that I’m a lot less happy with this fifth starter battle (and our fifth starter candidates) than I was when spring training began. I wonder how Turner’s doing with that tendonitis…?

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Tags: Drew Smyly Duane Below

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