Near the end of a Detroit News article focusing on the Tigers’ closer situation, Lynn Henning snuck in an interesting tidbit of news:
Dombrowski said the bullpen is not an option for either Porcello or Smyly
“Both will be quality major league starters this year,” Dombrowski said of Porcello and Smyly, “and both deserve to start.”
It’s important to note that Dave Dombrowski isn’t quoted as saying that neither player will be given a bullpen spot, but the sentiment is directly attributed to the Tigers’ GM.
Henning (again, of course) uses the opportunity to interpret this as meaning that one of these two pitchers WILL be traded before opening day, but I’m not sure that’s the case. I think the only real piece of information we can glean here is that neither will be converted into a long-reliever (or, in Porcello’s case, a closer) to start the year. Dombrowski says two things here:
That both players both players “deserve” to start is one of his statements. That’s very true. Smyly was impressive in his rookie year with a sub-4.00 ERA in nearly 100 innings pitched. He’s shown that he’s capable of holding down a back-end rotation spot for a competitive team.
Rick Porcello hasn’t yet blossomed into the top-end starter that he was projected to be when he signed out of high school but, while some have soured on him for that reason, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a fine (or even very good) fourth or fifth starter in the major leagues. He certainly “deserves” to get more opportunities to start games.
The other statement that Dombrowski makes is that “both will be quality major league starters this year”. That could mean one of two things. Interpreted loosely, it could mean that both will be quality major league caliber starters this year. He could be saying that a demotion to the minor leagues wouldn’t be an indictment on Smyly’s talent, but rather a commentary on the Tigers’ stacked rotation. The other possible interpretation for of this statement is that he (i.e. Dombrowski) is counting on the fact that one (or more) starting pitchers will miss time this year which means that, no matter who “wins” the fifth spot out of camp, both pitchers will play a critical role in the success of the staff.
Of course, it is possible that Smyly or, more likely, Porcello (as has been the talk recently) gets traded before the season begins, but that’s not the only option here. It seems to me that Dombrowski is saying that Smyly stands a good chance of being optioned to AAA Toledo when spring camp breaks because he isn’t going to be used as a long man and/or second LOOGY out of the pen.