Detroit Tigers: Rounding out the Bullpen
The Detroit Tigers do not have much flux when it comes to their roster this spring. Their starting lineup is set on a daily basis, their bench is compiled of their fourth outfielder, be it Anthony Gose or Cameron Maybin, and their two utility players in Mike Aviles and Andrew Romine.
The Tigers starting rotation is made up of Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Pelfrey, and Daniel Norris. The Tigers have other starters in waiting in the wings like Matt Boyd and Michael Fulmer, but they should not crack the starting rotation barring injury.
The only opportunity for movement in the Tigers organization as Spring Training begins is in the bullpen. The Tigers bullpen will assuredly be made up of Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe, Justin Wilson, Alex Wilson, and Blaine Hardy.
If Alex Wilson and Hardy are shoe-ins for the Tigers roster as many expect, there are two available spots, with Drew VerHagen and Bruce Rondon as the heavy favorites for those positions.
VerHagen almost is guaranteed to make the roster as a middle or long reliever for the Tigers. As a starter, VerHagen had moderate success at the higher minor league levels and surrendered 3 runs in 5 innings of his only Major League start.
In his two combined stints with the Tigers in 2015, VerHagen made 20 appearances and posted a 2.05 ERA. His WHIP was on the higher end at 4.35 and his K/9 was very low at 4.8, but VerHagen pitches downhill with a high arm angle and a riding sinker.
After surrendering 2 runs in one inning of work in a July 5 appearance, VerHagen was sent back to Toledo. He was recalled in mid-August and posted a 1.42 ERA with an opposing batting average of .195 in his 19 appearances. This spring, he is pumped to be the Tigers long reliever.
The favorite for the final bullpen spot is Bruce Rondon, but it will depend on his drive and attitude. Those two things should not be forced from a player at the Major League level, but Rondon was sent home last season because he did not have the drive to be a Major League closer, although he has the talent.
Rondon could be great and be the pitcher that puts the Tigers bullpen over the top in 2016, but he has to be the man who wants it.
Next: Daniel Norris Will Win the 5th Starter Spot
Other options on the Tigers include Angel Nesbitt, Michael Fulmer, and Matt Boyd, but Nesbitt is the only legitimate option, as the Tigers will need Boyd and Fulmer as starts in 2016 and beyond. If a starting pitcher is hurt for the Tigers, Boyd and Fulmer will be the two pitchers tapped first for the spot starts.