The Tigers tied up a few more loose ends on their roster today, announcing that Rick Porcello is officially the 5th starter, Drew Smyly will make the club and pitch out of the bullpen, and, barring something unforeseen, Matt Tuiasosopo will make the roster as a bench player as well.
I, for one, always thought that the 5th Starter Derby was being overplayed – the job has been Porcello’s to lose from day one of spring training. He has been ahead of Smyly on the club depth chart and I expected that it would take a very good spring from Smyly coupled with a mediocre one from Porcello for the powers that be within the organization to change their minds. As it became more apparent that a Porcello trade wasn’t imminent (in spite of Lynn Henning crying wolf) Smyly delivered the excellent spring he needed, but so did Porcello – he still hasn’t walked anyone – and he gave the Tigers no reason to really consider replacing him in the rotation. This certainly could be Porcello’s make-or-break season in a Tigers uniform, but he deserves the chance he’s getting.
So too does unheralded Matt Tuiasosopo, a 26-year-old hot-prospect-turned-career-minor-leaguer who got his spring training invite because he emailed his resume to Dave Dombrowski. It looked as if Tuiasosopo had actually won a spot once the Tigers returned Jeff Kobernus to the Nationals, and it makes sense, as he’s a right hand hitter with positional flexibility. The hope is probably that he can be the righty counter to Andy Dirks in left. Tuiasosopo fans should proceed with caution, as there’s a reason he’s on his third organization and has never caught on in the majors, but the Tigers will hope that he can keep his hot hitting going into the regular season.
This, for all intents and purposes, leaves two spots on the roster unclaimed. Tuiasosopo nailing down a spot is probably the end for Quintin Berry, as I’d expect that spring slugger and Leyland favorite Don Kelly will win the last bench spot again. Similarly, one spot in the bullpen goes unclaimed, and it’s probably still Bruce Rondon’s, as Smyly making the roster as a long reliever drastically reduces the need for the Tigers to carry, say, Darin Downs.