Mar 16, 2014; Melbourne, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws against the Washington Nationals in spring training action at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
This feels like the one part of the team that hasn’t been hurt by injuries yet this spring, and that’s a really good thing, as the starting rotation looks to be a dominant factor in the Tigers’ potential success this season. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez are three of the best pitchers in the American League, and Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly are about as good of a back-end as any team has. All figure to be better than average AL starters in 2014.
There’s not much in the way of depth should something happen — especially with Jose Alvarez now gone — but Duane Below, Kyle Lobstein, and (potentially) Robbie Ray could at least present some decent options should the need arise.
Joe Nathan will have the ninth inning under control, but Brad Ausmus will be trying to patch together options behind him. Bruce Rondon had been penciled in as the eight inning man, but now he’s been lost for the year to Tommy John surgery. I’d expect Al Alburquer and Joba Chamberlain to get the first cracks at the seventh and eighth innings now, but they both still have a lot to prove.
Neither Ian Krol nor Phil Coke have seen overly-impressive results this spring, but looks like both will make the team as left-handed relievers. Blaine Hardy has posted an impressive ERA, but his peripheral strikeout and walk rates have not been good at all.
That leaves two spots for (probably) right-handed pitchers. Luke Putkonen has been on my projected list all along, and it looks like Evan Reed, who has been good this spring, will win the final spot in the pen. Jose Ortega has had a pretty good spring as well, and may still be in the mix, but he has an option year remaining and may be a victim of the numbers game initially.