One of the biggest stories of Tigers training camp and preseason was the fight for the 5th starter spot. At one time, it seemed that almost everyone that could fit on the bus from the minor league fields was in the mix. In reality, it was Jacob Turner and a bunch of lefties, who almost all of them at one time was considered a front runner with the exception of Adam Wilk and Casey Crosby. Drew Smyly, maybe the darkest horse in the race, ended up “winning” the job because Andy Oliver and Duane Below acted like the job was a virus they were determined not to catch.
Well, Luis Marte went and hurt himself on the last day, and Below got the call and has looked good in the pen thus far. Doug Fister, strained a muscle in his side which now opens the door for Below to start a few games. Drew Smyly is getting the call on Thursday against the Rays, so when Fister gets back, those two are essentially still battling. Why? Smyly didn’t exactly impress his last spring start, and certainly didn’t on Saturday when he took the mound for the Toledo Mud Hens.
In fact, Smyly went only 1.2 innings, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks, taking the loss.
The other two lefties, Casey Crosby and Andy Oliver, who were fighting for a job on the Tigers this spring also didn’t fair well in Toledo either. Crosby’s start tonight was rough, and maybe even more rough for him, was that his start was in front of Tigers skipper Jim Leyland. Crosby went 4 innings yesterday for the Mud Hens, giving up 6 runs (4 earned), and walked 2. He did strike out 6, but it’s not the kind of effort you want to have with a potential 5th starter carousel going on in the big leagues. I would assume Crosby wants to get on the horse.
The biggest disappointment of the “Toledo Trio” in my estimation, Andy Oliver, was probably the worst of the bunch. Oliver went just 3.2 innings, giving up 5 runs (2 earned), but walked a whopping 5 batters in what is continuing to look like his achilles heel. Oliver had the 5th starter job all but locked up before he went all Andy Oliver and pitched inconsistently like he has his entire career.
While it is disappointing that each of these guys started their 2012 with poor starts, it doesn’t mean that they can’t have a good season. In fact, it would benefit the Tigers greatly if they do. It looks like to me that come the trade deadline, the Tigers might be shopping for a mid rotation type (you know, another Fister), especially if Scherzer doesn’t gain some modicum of consistency. If the Tigers are going to get a guy, they will need one or two of these talented lefties to be pitching well, and look intriguing to a club that is looking for young pitching.