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Detroit Tigers: Who Makes the Bullpen?

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Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Boyd (48) and teammates pitch in the bullpen at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Boyd (48) and teammates pitch in the bullpen at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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With injuries playing a large part so far in Spring Training, there is serious competition for places in the Detroit Tigers bullpen.

When the playoff races start to heat up, the Detroit Tigers bullpen should be at full strength. However, the team is currently trying to put together a bullpen that could be without both Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy on Opening Day.

The Detroit Free Press’ Anthony Fenech reported on the Wilson front, tweeting that “Alex Wilson will not be ready to start the regular season, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.” MLB.com’s Jason Beck added in a tweet that Ausmus said “It would be extremely tough” in relation to the reliever making the team.

Fenech also relayed more injury news, this time pertaining to Hardy. “Blaine Hardy has a slight impingement in his left shoulder, Ausmus said. He won’t throw this weekend and is questionable for Opening Day.”

While neither injury seems serious, Detroit could be without last season’s two best relief pitchers to start the season.

Thankfully, all is not lost. Al Avila’s offseason bullpen renovation has given the team more depth—depth that will be front and center when the season begins.

Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson were brought in over the winter to reinforce the relief corps as the team’s closer and two setup men respectively. Even with the injuries to others, the trio will start the season heading up the back end of the Detroit bullpen.

So who else will make the team? Here’s a look.

The Candidates

Drew VerHagen: The 25-year-old pitched well down the stretch last season, and given the inexperience, should make the team. He’s struggled so far this spring with a 8.10 ERA, but posted a much more aesthetically-pleasing 2.05 number in 26.1 innings pitched in 2015.

Kyle Ryan: Ryan has quietly been one of the team’s best relief pitchers this spring, holding opposing hitters to a .188 batting average and a 3.00 ERA in nine innings pitched. The fact that he could potentially throw multiple innings should only help him. 

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Lendy Castillo: So far in Spring Training, the former Chicago Cub has been one of the team’s better non-roster invitees. The right-handed has pitched 7.2 innings, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six. More importantly, batters have only managed a .179 average against him.

Bruce Rondon: In 9.1 spring innings, the pitcher once believed to be Detroit’s closer hasn’t been stellar, but there are positives to be had. Despite a 5.79 ERA in nine appearances, Rondon does have six scoreless outings under his belt. What’s more, he has accumulated 12 strikeouts compared to just three walks.

Bobby Parnell: The former Mets closer has struggled in his last two outings, giving up seven runs, six hits, two walks and a home run. He only recorded three outs. However, if Parnell can pitch like he did in his first seven appearances (2.45 ERA), he’ll make the team. Detroit could definitely use his experience.

Buck Farmer: After posting ERAs of 11.57 and 7.36 in his first two stints with the Tigers, it has been a pleasant surprise to see Buck Farmer pitching so effectively this spring. Detroit may have rushed the pitcher to the big leagues, but if he can pitch like he has so far this spring, he’ll be a quality contributor. The 25-year-old has held batters to a .235 batting average in nine innings, adding seven strikeouts. In total, his ERA is 3.00.

Next: The Battle for the Fifth Starter Spot

Final Prediction:

Which pitchers will make the team in addition to Rodriguez, Lowe and Wilson? VerHagen, Castillo and Parnell.

For more Detroit Tigers Analysis, check out our Detroit Tigers analysis hub page.

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