LAKELAND, Fla. -- Pitching depth was a top priority for the Detroit Tigers this offseason and after making a number of acquisitions and signings this winter the Tigers have a surplus of arms vying for spots this spring training.
Clearly, that’s a good problem to have.
So, which pitchers are competing for which spots?
Let’s take a look:
Fifth starter: Four of the top five are all but penciled in for the start of the 2016 season. Barring injury, resident ace Justin Verlander is the likely Opening Day starter, with new free-agent pickup Jordan Zimmermann right behind him. A now-healthy Anibal Sanchez figures to round out the middle of the rotation with free agent Mike Pelfrey also expected to anchor the back end. That leaves three, maybe four, players competing for the spot:
Setup men: The Tigers made strategic moves to strengthen the back end of the bullpen, adding bona fide closer Francisco Rodriguez via trade, as well as setup man Justin Wilson. Mark Lowe, a power lefty, is expected to also be a short-inning reliever. There likely remains one more short-inning relief role to snag, and there are a few names to still consider.
Long reliever: Incumbents like Drew VerHagen, Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy are more likely to carve out long-relief roles should the Tigers need help eating up innings. VerHagen is a converted starter, Wilson pitched in pretty much all situations last season, and Hardy was one of the team’s most reliable relievers for a significant stretch toward the end of the season, so they all enter spring training with a leg up on the competition. That leaves likely only a spot or two up for grabs, according to manager Brad Ausmus. Depending on how the fifth-starter competition shakes out, a few more names could be added to that list: