Jun 8, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Grant Balfour (50) looks on from the dugout in the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field. The Mariners won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers Links: Improving Tigers bullpen, prospects doing well & Verlander for closer

National analyst: A couple of ideas to bolster Detroit Tigers’ bullpen – Steve Schrader, Detroit Free Press

“■ “Grant Balfour — the on-again, off-again closer for the Rays — could be traded to the Tigers to set up Joe Nathan if Nathan can figure it out. Of course, the Tigers would much prefer to trade for Huston Street of the Padres, and if so, Nathan would become a setup reliever for the Tigers.”

“If Street lands with the Dodgers, he would be a setup man, but if it’s the Tigers, will have a chance for a lot of saves in August and September.”

■ “Drew Smyly will end up back in the Tigers’ bullpen, but don’t expect the move to be made until September. Sure, the Tigers’ bullpen is the worst in baseball and Smyly is desperately missed there. However, the Tigers’ pitching people don’t want to move Smyly back and forth and risk setting his long-term development back.””

I was a proponent of bringing Balfour in for set-up prior to this season, but he’s been as big of a disaster for Tampa Bay as Joe Nathan has for Detroit. Clearly getting Street should be the Tigers’ top priority to get better in the bullpen. I wouldn’t mind seeing Smyly return to the pen, however is Robbie Ray ready to come up full-time and take his place? (The only other legitimate starter the Tigers would turn to–and he’s nursing a blistered finger currently). And how does Joel Hanrahan fit in to all this if and when he’s healthy? This is a mess of questions fitting for the mess that is the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen. 

 

Tigers Prospects: Willy Adames, Buck Farmer standing out in minors – Jordan Gorosh, Free Press

“At the plate, Adames starts with a wide base and the bat on his back shoulder. He has a toe-tap load mechanism, gets his hands into a strong hitting position and generates “plus” bat speed through the zone. He has some pop in the bat and is able to barrel up pitches. So far, the young infielder has put up a .260/.333/.402 line, with an 8.9% walk rate. Hitting for power and walking as a teenager is always a good sign.

In college, Farmer was anywhere from 89 to 92 m.p.h. with his fastball, occasionally touching 93 or 94. However, he has seen an uptick this season, sitting mostly in the 92 to 94 range, sometimes touching 95. His fastball command shows promise, and he locates really well to his glove side, often going away from right-handers and inside to lefties. His curveball can get a bit slurvy, yet it has tight spin and generates swings and misses. It shows the promise of being a major league-average pitch. The change-up has some arm-side run and fade and also may be a major league-average pitch. Even with some effort in the delivery, three pitches and a command profile, Farmer has the tools to become a back-of-the-rotation big- league starter.”

The Tigers farm system is not highly regarded, but Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez are faring pretty well (though admittedly Suarez has a small sample size). Prospects like Devon Travis and Steven Moya have bounced back after poor starts in AA-Erie, and the lower minor teams in Lakeland and Connecticut are each vying for the best record in their respective leagues. 

 

3 Reasons For Justin Verlander As Tigers Closer – Dan Hasty, CBS Detroit

1) JV + Adrealine (SIC) — Over the past two years, Verlander’s best work as a Tiger has been in pressure situations. He thrives off adrenaline, as evidenced by the fact that he’s given up just eight runs in seven postseason starts since 2012. Putting Verlander in constant pressure spots with a rested arm might be exactly what he needs to light the competitive fire.
2) Joe Nathan — He’s been awful. Entering play Tuesday, Nathan held a 6.57 ERA, and hasn’t recorded a Save since May. There’s no reason to trust Nathan, or think that at 39 years old, he’ll find the secret to turning things around.
3) Save the Arm — Since 2011, no one has thrown more pitches than JV. Pitchers aren’t built to throw as much as Verlander has over the past four seasons, where he’s ranked 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 1st in pitches thrown. All of that’s now catching up to him. That being said, in all three of his June losses, Verlander didn’t allow a run until the 4th inning at the earliest, indicating that his arm may be able to give you something of quality over a short period of time. Making him a reliever reduces his pitch count, which is exactly what he needs. He’s no longer built for 100 pitches a night. It’s the exact reason pitchers that can’t be starters become relievers.

I agree on one point, adrenaline. It seems Verlander has started strong in his recent starts but tires and reaches a point of no return when opposing batters hit him hard. Still it makes no sense. What do you do with Nathan? Who takes J.V.’s place in the rotation?  As with the story above, there are no easy answers for the bullpen or Justin at this point. 

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