I spent the last two days in solitude, intentionally mind you, and didn’t pay attention to Andy Oliver or Drew Smyly, or the games against Houston and St. Louis. So when I turned my phone back on this morning, I had quite a few wisecracks awaiting my response.
I certainly have been a supporter of giving Andy Oliver the job since the onset of the off season, and my position hadn’t changed even after he gave up seven runs in three innings, though the emphasis on “why” he should win the job was going to be further addressed.
But none of that matters since he has officially been demoted to Triple-A Toledo and will not head north as the Tigers fifth starter, at least to start the year.
I honestly thought he would make the team, given the fact that he has had two cups of big league experience (no matter how poor the quality was) and the Tigers generally like to see what they have in an arm pretty quickly. Maybe it was a bit irrational to think that, I don’t know, but like I said, it really doesn’t matter and never did, because I knew what the Tigers did going into the spring: whoever pitched the best would win the job.
However, now that the spring camp is a week from finally going away, the team is discovering that the candidates are dropping like flies and the competition is turning into more of a “who can keep their head above water the longest” rather than “who can pitch the best”.
Perhaps that reality upsets you, I don’t know. I do know that it doesn’t upset me because the Tigers don’t need to get much out of their fifth starter. Sure, you want as much depth as you can get out of the final pitcher in your rotation. But last year the Tigers made it within six wins of a World Championship with Brad Penny on their roster for the entire regular season. He was more valuable as an innings eater than a runs saver and didn’t even pitch in the playoffs. The Tigers won’t get those innings from him this year, instead they will com from one or multiple arms. In the end this doesn’t effect the Tigers ultimate goal in the playoffs.
Sure, any one of these candidates could turn up on June 1st and figure out how to pitch and force their way into pitching ever single fifth day for years to come. But, by that same token, any one of these candidates could never pan out, but they are all going to be evaluated and looked at extensively until the think tank feels they are done with the organization.
Where are we now? Ideally this spot in the rotation goes to Jacob Turner later this summer, but for now the job belongs to either Duane Below or Drew Smyly.
Updated through 27 spring games (15-6-5 with one cancellation):
Drew Smyly: 12.2IP, 7H, 4ER, 5BB, 10SO | 2.84ERA
Duane Below: 12.1IP, 16H, 6ER, 6BB, 8SO | 4.38ERA
Jacob Turner: 4IP, 6H, 5ER, 6BB, 2SO | 11.25ERA Optioned Casey Crosby: 5.2IP, 6H, 3ER, 6BB, 4SO | 4.76ERA Optioned Adam Wilk: 12IP, 19H, 10ER, 2BB, 5SO | 7.50ERA Optioned
Andy Oliver: 15.2IP, 11H, 9ER, 10BB, 10SO | 5.17ERA Optioned