According to Tom Gage of the Detroit News, the Detroit Tigers have announced the starting pitcher for Friday’s spring opener, and it’s not who you think (unless you think it’s Rick Porcello, because it is).
Leyland also announced the starting pitchers for the first three exhibition games. Rick Porcello, whose projected eight starts are going to be the most any Tigers’ starter will get this spring, will start Friday in the opener against the Braves.
I was listening to afternoon drive time sports radio today, and they were speculating whether or not anything should be read into the fact that it’s Pocello and not anyone else. That maybe the Tigers were trying to showcase Porcello — the most discussed trade chip of the off-season — by getting him out there early before anyone else.
It’s certainly possible that the Tigers had something like this in the back of their mind, but he’s likely to only pitch two innings (that’s how many Doug Fister threw in last year’s Grapefruit League opener) and that’s not much of a showcase. If a team was interested in acquiring him they’d probably send scouts to watch, but what could you really learn from the first two live-action innings of an exhibition season in which a pitcher isn’t going full-tilt? Answer: nothing.
There’s a much more simple and logical explanation for why it’s Porcello and not one of the others. As Jim Leyland said just last week, he’s going to keep an eye on the workload of his starting pitchers that were extended due to the lengthy playoff run.
“You have to be careful,” Leyland said. “You want them to be prepared, but at the same time you want to make sure they aren’t doing too much. You’ve got to watch them.”
Porcello, of course, wasn’t one of the starting pitchers during the playoffs, so he wasn’t any more taxed than he would have been in a normal year. He’s likely in the lead to win the fifth starter spot (ahead of Drew Smyly) so he’s one of the priorities when it comes to getting arms ready.
We could play the conspiracy theory game and say that the team is positioning him for a trade, but there’s likely nothing to read into this. In fact, there would have been more to read into had it been anyone else.