Detroit Tigers Top 5 Spring Training Story Lines

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Apr 5, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Boston Red Sox pitcher

Joel Hanrahan

(52) delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

#5: Bullpen

Granted there are some pressing injury issues that we will get to later on, but entering any Detroit Tigers’ season, the phrase, “It’s the Bullpen, Stupid” springs to mind.

It can be argued that the bullpen was the reason the Tigers were bounced out of the playoffs the last two years. Joba Chamberlain‘s complete meltdown in Game 2 of the ALDS turned a 1-1 series heading back to Detroit into an 0-2 hole and a listless Comerica Park crowd that couldn’t do their part to fire up their baseball heroes.

The season before that, the Tigers appeared to have all the pieces in place to be a champion, but two ill-timed pitches in the ALCS went for Grand Slams. Had those two pitches not gone out, I honestly believe the Tigers would have been World Champions in 2013, but sadly that is not the case.

Early on this offseason I stated that I felt if the Tigers didn’t make a big move in their bullpen (i.e. signing Andrew Miller) they not only would not go far in the postseason, they wouldn’t even make it.

I am not convinced they did enough to change this perception, but I can say that perhaps the unit will surprise. As an equally hardcore Detroit Lions’ fan, I never could fathom what the defense did for the Honolulu Blue and figured the secondary would doom the unit per usual.

Like the Lions’ defense there is potential for the Tigers’ bullpen, but “potential” is not something you want to be throwing around when you pencil yourself into World Series contention.

As it stands non-roster candidates like Joel Hanrahan (who will likely make the team if healthy), Alfredo Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Tim Melville, Luke Putkonen, Omar Duran and Joe Mantiply will compete for spots with guys on the 40-man roster. These players include Blaine Hardy, Ian Krol, Angel Nesbitt, Chad Smith, Jose Valdez, Alex Wilson and Jose Zeid. Also in contention could be minor league starters/major league spot starters Buck Farmer, Kyle Lobstein, Kyle Ryan and Drew VerHagen.

You also have the relievers guaranteed a spot in the mix like Al Alburquerque, Tom Gorzelanny, Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon and Joakim Soria.

No matter who makes the bullpen out of camp it will likely be a dramatic departure from 2014. On the surface that could be a good thing, but they could also be worse believe it or not. Spring Training should give us a fairly accurate view.