The Detroit Tigers have a handful of players competing for the last spot in the rotation. With Mike Fiers struggling this spring, can Daniel Norris steal back his spot?
The Detroit Tigers only made two major league free agent signings this offseason. Leonys Martin was brought in to start in center field and provide speed and veteran leadership to a young, rebuilding team. Starting pitcher Mike Fiers was brought in as an innings-eater in the starting rotation.
However, after yet another abysmal spring training start, it is time to re-evaluate if Fiers should start the season in the rotation.
Fiers has thrown 11.1 innings this spring. He’s allowed 12 runs on 10 hits, including four home runs. Home runs have long been an issue for Fiers, so it’s disturbing that the trend is continuing. He has also walked eight batters and hit three.
For an established veteran with a solid track record, a slow start in spring training is hardly an issue. However, Fiers had a 5.22 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP in 29 games last season with the Astros, and was left off the postseason roster. He allowed 32 home runs as well.
While manager Ron Gardenhire hasn’t written Fiers off yet, it’s clear his patience is wearing thin:
"“We’re planning on this guy being in,” Gardenhire said. “He knows it and we know it. But at the end of the day, when we get down to the end here, we have to make some decisions and we’re going to go with the guys that are getting it done and right now, he’s just gotta fight through it because he’s a veteran.”"
Can Norris win his job back?
Daniel Norris is currently the odd man out in Detroit’s rotation. However, the soon-to-be 25-year-old left-hander has had a rock solid spring. He’s tossed five innings and surrendered two runs with a solid 6/1 K/BB ratio.
Five innings is not a ton to go off, but Norris looks like a man fighting for his job down in Lakeland. And if Fiers is not capable of delivering quality innings, he should be relegated to the bullpen.
Having a steady veteran presence in a rebuilding rotation is never a bad thing. However, the last thing a team with a lot of young talent wants to do is stunt the growth of their studs. Norris, despite less than stellar results in the big leagues so far, is still a pitcher with a lot of potential. It would be a waste for him to be in Triple-A if he is capable of contributing at the big league level.
The Detroit Tigers will surely use more than five starters in 2018. Norris still has a minor league option remaining, part of the reason he is considered the odd-man out.
However, if Fiers cannot demonstrate that he deserves a spot, don’t be surprised to see him in the bullpen and Norris in the rotation. The Tigers need to make sure that they are helping their young players grow in order to make this rebuild a short and succesful one.