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Detroit Tigers: Multiple Pitchers Could Fill Last Rotation Slot

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Aug 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Detroit Tigers will likely lean on the team’s depth and use a number of different pitchers to fill the fifth and final place in the starting rotation.

Last season, a staggering 12 different pitchers started a game for the Detroit Tigers. The dozen included two Cy-Young winners, a reliever, some promising young arms and a number of ugly ERAs.

This was all mainly due to necessity. Detroit’s rotation was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness, prompting the team to turn to a number of different pitchers for answers. With the exception of Justin Verlander, David Price and Daniel Norris, no pitcher could find any real consistency.

The young (24-year-old Matt Boyd and his 6.57 ERA) and the old (38-year-old Randy Wolf and his equally ugly 6.23) both failed to keep the rotation stable. 

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Next season, the Tigers should have a much improved rotation. Justin Verlander has reemerged as a frontline pitcher, while Anibal Sanchez should rebound from a disastrous campaign that was mainly due to an uncharacteristic number of home runs allowed. Detroit also inked Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey in free agency, filling two more rotation spots.

While the team’s rotation will be much improved, a number of different starters will likely pitch in the fifth slot behind Verlander, Zimmermann, Sanchez and Pelfrey.

Daniel Norris should break camp as the fifth starter. But, at 22-years-old, the Tigers should be limiting the southpaw’s innings. That means more of an opportunity for other starters.

The Options

With Wolf, Kyle Lobstein and Alfredo Simon no longer with the organization and Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan shifting towards relief roles, the rotation options are much different than last season.

Sep 3, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Matt Boyd (48) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Matt Boyd (48) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

Boyd and Shane Greene remain the most likely options, while an affordable, free agent swingman shouldn’t be ruled out either.

The aforementioned duo of Boyd and Greene didn’t exactly post encouraging numbers during the 2015 season. Boyd allowed 56 hits and 39 runs in only 50.2 innings, while opposing batters hit .308 off Greene. In total, the former Yankee’s ERA was an unsightly 6.88.

Despite the ugly numbers, there are numerous positives to be taken.

One of the pieces that came over in the David Price trade, Boyd clearly has potential. He pitched to a 9-2 record and a 1.65 ERA in 19 minor-league starts in 2015. While the lefty’s Major League numbers weren’t as aesthetically pleasing, he showed flashes of potential. In Boyd’s first start with the Tigers, he limited the eventual World-Series champion Kansas City Royals to one run in seven innings of a 2-1 victory for Detroit. In total, the southpaw made seven starts in which he allowed three runs or fewer. Boyd also allowed only 20 walks in 11 appearances.

Jul 21, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Shane Greene (61) pitches in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 21, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Shane Greene (61) pitches in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Greene, on the other hand, came out of the gate on fire in 2015. The 27-year-old won his first three contests, allowing only one earned run in the process. Over that trio of games, the right-handed pitcher’s record was 3-0 and his ERA was 0.39. Opposing batters managed a .160 batting average against him, posting a meager .413 OPS. Greene’s ERA was 9.35 the rest of the way, but his success at the beginning of the season suggests he can succeed.

These guys aren’t starting 30 games a pop. The duo may only make four or five starts each (if that) depending on how Norris’ innings are monitored. In other words, they won’t be heavily depended on.

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In Conclusion

While Daniel Norris will likely slot in as the fifth starter in the Detroit Tigers’ rotation, he may not pitch a season’s worth of games. Detroit should carefully manage his innings in an attempt to preserve his arm for the long run. This means pitchers like Matt Boyd and Shane Greene could make some starts. Like last season, the Tigers will be using a number of different starts. Only this time, it won’t be out of desperation.

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