Thursday, March 29, 2012

Only Smyly and Below Remain In Hunt for No. 5 Starter Spot

By Sean Gagnier
And then there were two. The Tigers optioned Andy Oliver to the minors after he struggled in his last couple of outings with the club. During his 15.2 innings of work for the Tigers this spring Oliver posted a 5.17 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.

While he was holding opposing batters to a .193 batting average he struggled with control on the mound, he walked 10 batters and gave up 10 runs. Oliver had been in the lead for contention for the No. 5 spot in the Tigers rotation but his last few outings were not his best and Manager Jim Leyland thought it would do him better to start the year in the minors - that just leaves Duane Below and Drew Smyly.

It appears that Detroit's No. 5 pitcher will be a lefty as both Below and Smyly are south paws, but which one could end up wearing the Olde English "D" and which one will end up donning a Mudhens uniform this April is what everyone is wondering.

Below made a few spot starts for the Tigers last year and spent time in the bullpen, but this spring he has shown that he has the stuff to be a big league starter. He has spent 12.1 innings on the mound this spring and in his time he has posted a 4.38 ERA with a 1.78 WHIP. Both numbers are a tad high but his K/BB ratio is recent at 8/6.

Smyly was the dark horse candidate to win the spot at the beginning of the spring, and he has only improved his numbers since. With a 2.87 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 12.2 innings Smyly is showing that he is the only real choice for the Tigers. His command is evident as he has fanned 10 batters while only walking five.

The rotation needs depth and either of these lefties would do well in the No. 5 spot, but looking at the numbers the job should go to Drew Smyly. With Smyly in the rotation Below should be in the running for the last spot in the bullpen.

Detroit can't really go wrong with either choice and they are in a position that most teams would envy, trying to figure out who will be their last starter while choosing from a crop of talented young pitchers. Things will shake out quickly this week, look for Smyly to get the ball going into the season.

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