The Detroit Tigers’ rotation was set at the beginning of Spring Training, but after multiple bouts with back issues, Daniel Norris will begin the 2016 season on the disabled list. With Norris’s injury, the Tigers will have to decide, who will be the fifth starter in their rotation behind Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Mike Pelfrey.
In 2015, Norris posted a 3-2 record with a 3.92 ERA and a 1.230 WHIP. In his time with the Tigers, his ERA was 3.68 and his WHIP was 1.009 over the course of 8 starts after he was acquired as the main piece of the David Price deal.
The two main options for the fifth starter spot are Shane Greene and Matt Boyd.
Some claim Greene is the front-runner for the final rotation spot. Greene started the 2015 season with the Tigers, but ended it with the Toledo Mud Hens after he struggled. Greene started the season hot, surrendering only one run over three starts, but then plummeted to a 6.88 ERA by the end of the season.
Greene looked like he could make a transition to the bullpen like Drew VerHagen, but the Tigers still have hope for Greene in the starting rotation thanks to his two starts against the Tigers in 2014 and his three starts to start the season in 2015. He is probably the favorite to win the fifth starter job, but will have to work to win it and keep it.
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Matt Boyd is the other starter who has a chance to win the final starter’s position. In his time with the Tigers in 2015, he posted a 6.57 ERA and a 1.480 WHIP over 10 starts with the Tigers. Boyd could use time in AAA, but the Tigers’ need may trump his need.
Those numbers are not encouraging, but Boyd’s spring has shown promise. Before his start on Thursday, Boyd had posted a 3.29 ERA and a 1.098 WHIP over 13.2 innings of work. On Thursday, he was knocked around in his 3.1 innings, surrendering 3 earned runs on 7 hits, two walks and three strikeouts. He had a runner picked off twice, but the defense behind him failed.
Although Greene and Boyd are the favorites, there are other pitchers who could make the roster. First, the Tigers could just use four starters at the beginning of the season with the off days, or they could add Buck Farmer or Kyle Lohse, who the Tigers have interest in, to the roster.
Finally, if this was August and not March, the Detroit Tigers could tap Michael Fulmer for service. Fulmer was sent to AAA last week and needs the work, but the Tigers could call him up as the year progresses.
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