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Detroit Tigers Opening Day Countdown: 5 Days

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Previously:
15 Days: Number of Ryan Raburn Home Runs in 2010
14 Days: Number of Cards in 2003 Topps Base Set
13 Days: Number of Starts by Jacob Turner for Lakeland in 2010
12 Days: Number of Franchise Playoff Appearances
11 Days: Number of Tigers Rookie Debuts in 2010
10 Days: Number American League Pennants Won
9 Days: Number Consecutive Years With Only One All-Star
8 Days: All-time Rank in Interleague Play Win Percentage
7 Days: Number of Victories until Jim Leyland Reaches Career Win Number 1500
6 Days: Attendance Rank in 2010

Thursday March 31st is only five days away! The Tigers will face the Yankees in a 1:05 PM game at Yankee Stadium.

With the number five today comes discussion of Tiger prospect Andy Oliver; he made five starts last year for the big club. Even though Oliver went 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA (22 IP) in those starts, he still remains a hot prospect, and he still has a bright future in the organization.

Baseball America ranked Oliver as the third best Tiger prospect this offseason behind only Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos. They also list him as the 87th best prospect in all of baseball.

The Tigers drafted him in the second round of the 2009 draft, but he didn’t sign until August, and he didn’t play until the start of the 2010 season. He was placed in AA with the Erie SeaWolves, and he did quite well, posting a 3.61 ERA in 14 starts. He pitched well enough to earn the call up when the club felt it was necessary to give Rick Porcello a few starts in Toledo to try to turn his pitching around.

He struggled a bit with the home run ball, and he struggled a lot with the walks while with the Tigers, but his strikeout rate wasn’t too shabby for a guy in his first year as a pro playing in the majors. He showed that he can get major league hitters out, but he simply walked too many hitters to be successful.

When it came time to send him back to the minors, he was placed in AAA with the Toledo Mudhens. He finished the year there with a 3.23 ERA in nine starts, he still struggled with walks some, but his strikeout rate stayed strong, and even improved over his AA numbers. His low ERA was also the beneficiary of a suppressed BABIP against.

Oliver entered camp this year as a long shot to win a starting job in Detroit. He probably either needed someone to get hurt or for Brad Penny or Phil Coke to pretty much implode to make the team, and since that didn’t happen, Andy was assigned to AAA Toledo in the early rounds of cuts. He made two appearances this spring, striking out five hitters in five innings while walking two and allowing one run to score.

As long as he pitches well in AAA to start the season, it looks like Oliver will be the first guy called up when the Tigers need another starting pitcher. If all goes well this season, he could be joining the rotation full time by next season. That is, if he doesn’t end up sticking this season.