Detroit Tigers News

Detroit Tigers: An update on the final rotation spot

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Francisco Liriano #46 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees in Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Francisco Liriano #46 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees in Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Tigers have a battle raging for the final spot(s?) in their starting rotation. A few weeks into spring training, has anyone pulled ahead?

The Detroit Tigers stockpiled plenty of starters to compete for the final spots in their rotation. The rotation will be led by All-Star Michael Fulmer, followed by veteran Jordan Zimmermann and free agent signee Mike Fiers.

The final two spots are both up for grabs. Left-handers Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd made 18 and 25 starts, respectively, for the Tigers last season. That gives them an upper hand on the final rotation spots. However, their 5.31 and 5.27 ERA from last year leaves a lot to be desired.

The Tigers have brought in a bevy of free agents to challenge them for those final rotation spots. A few weeks into spring training, and we have already seen some dominos start to fall. Who is gone, who is left, and who will be in the rotation on opening day?

The goners

Through unfortunate circumstances, the most obvious elimination is minor league free agent signee Travis Wood. Wood was a longshot for a rotation spot when he was signed, looking more like a bullpen piece. Even that dream has been officially dashed, as the Tigers released him following the news that he tore his ACL and meniscus and will miss the entire 2018 season.

Not all the players competing for a rotation spot with Norris and Boyd were signed this offseason. Buck Farmer and Alex Wilson were each competing for a rotation spot as well. Wilson has been an integral part of Detroit’s bullpen since 2015, but he was stretched out as a starter this offseason. However, the experiment is officially over, and Wilson will resume his role as a late-inning bullpen piece for the Tigers.

Buck Farmer has spent time in both Detroit’s rotation and bullpen in his four-year career. However, like Wilson, he has been told by the Tigers that his future with the team will be out of the bullpen.

Wilson is locked into a bullpen role, and the Tigers seem keen to give Farmer a spot in the pen as well. That still leaves a handful of players competing with Norris and Boyd for those final rotation spots.

The remaining competition

The most notable competition remaining is veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano. Liriano, who was signed by Detroit on February 23, has made 274 starts in his big league career, including 18 last season.

He has made one start so far in spring training, throwing two scoreless innings with a hit, a walk and three strikeouts. Liriano struggled to a 5.88 ERA in 20 starts with the Toronto Blue Jays. Although he has looked better out of the bullpen, his experience as a starter and familiarity with Ron Gardenhire could help him snag a rotation spot, especially if he finishes the spring out strong.

The last remaining competition for a rotation spot is minor league veteran Ryan Carpenter, whom the Tigers signed to a big league deal earlier in the offseason. Carpenter has made three appearances (two starts) in spring training, throwing 6.2 innings with two earned runs and a stellar 10/2 K/BB ratio. Carpenter is a dark-horse for a rotation spot, as he has yet to make his big league debut even after seven minor league seasons.

Next: Q&A with Tigers broadcaster Mario Impemba

With Fulmer, Zimmermann and Fiers all being right-handed, it isn’t surprising that the four remaining candidates are all left-handers. It is still anyone’s guess who will win those final spots, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see all four start for the Tigers at some point in 2018.

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