September 20, 2011; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Luis Marte (49) delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 10-2. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Verburg Whiffs Twice

A couple of days back our own John Verburg posted his predictions for the Tigers three roster battles (four, if you count the whole Inge/Worth thing) with And The Winners Are… Picking Duane Below, Brayan Villarreal and Clete Thomas. This morning a couple of those battles were settled by roster moves from the Tigers front office, and not in the ways that he was expecting. I kid, I kid, this is big news for the Tigers – not just the roster prognosticator community. Besides, Smyly and Marte have pretty good stuff – so there’s no shame in swinging and missing. And anyway, he’s still got one chance left to knock one out of the park…

The last man in the Tigers bullpen is not going to be hard-throwing Brayan Villarreal after all, it will be Luis Marte. I can’t say I disagree with the logic – after all, what’s the point of velocity if you don’t strike out more batters than Brad Penny? From a statistical perspective – Marte definitely has had the better spring, as well as a vastly better 2011 campaign. We’ll see what he can do for the big league club soon enough, but I have high hopes for his 2012.

Duane Below was also optioned to Toledo, with only Drew Smyly remaining in big league camp. This is going to be taken to mean that Below lost himself that 5th starter contest with his poor outing on Friday and that Drew Smyly will be going north with the Tigers and not the ‘Hens (or Seawolves). The Detroit News headline is, in fact, “Drew Smyly Wins Job As 5th Starter In Tigers Rotation“.

They have apparently told Smyly as much (according to Jason Beck at MLB.com) – though in a somewhat odd twist he is still going to be making his first start for Toledo, since the Tigers don’t need a fifth man for their first time through the rotation. I had imagined that the Tigers might head north with both Villarreal and Marte, for a week at any rate, if their fifth starter wasn’t going to be needed for 10 days or so. It seems I was wrong.

No declarations have yet been made about the Tigers last position players – though if the team is going to head north with only 11 pitchers that leaves a bit more flexibility. Perhaps the team will hold both Clete Thomas and Andy Dirks on the 25 for the time being, with the fate of Danny Worth decided by Brandon Inge’s groin. Or, perhaps, either Thomas or Dirks will be left off (since they play the same positions, hit from the same side and both compete with the same Don Kelly for playing time) and Worth and Inge will both make the club. We’ll see in the next few days – but I’d say that the Tigers big unanswered spring training questions have been resolved.

I’m having a bit of difficulty getting excited about the result of this rotation battle – it feels more like Smyly won it only because all other contenders grabbed every available opportunity to lose it and not because he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s capable of winning big league games right now. I’m still eager to see what he can do, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m confident…

Tags: Brayan Villarreal Drew Smyly Duane Below Luis Marte

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