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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fifth starter competition narrows by process of elimination

The Detroit Tigers came into spring training with six internal candidates for the fifth starter position, but that number is being steadily whittled down by attrition and elimination as camp goes on.

Lefty Adam Wilk was the latest name removed from the hat, as his contract was optioned to Toledo Saturday morning, cutting the number of players in camp to 38.

The 24-year-old Wilk, who appeared in five games for the Tigers last season, had a 7.50 ERA in 12 spring innings, giving up 19 hits and 10 runs.

Optioning Wilk leaves Andy Oliver, Drew Smyly and Duane Below as the most likely candidates to claim the fifth starter job. Casey Crosby, one of the other early candidates, was optioned out earlier in camp, while Jacob Turner is just starting to begin throwing again after a "dead-arm" period.

Smyly has been the dark-horse candidate throughout camp, considering his control of his arsenal. Tigers manager Jim Leyland was asked Friday whether Smyly's stuff could be considered exceptional.

"I wouldn’t say that. I think he’s got very good stuff. If you’re talking about Sandy Koufax stuff, no. Not many of those guys around. I think he’s got very good stuff," Leyland said.
"I think Oliver’s got very good stuff, and I think Crosby’s got very good stuff. And Adam Wilk has very useable stuff — there’s a lot of pitchers in the big leagues who don’t throw more than 94-95 mph; a lot of guys pitching at 89-90-91. Jacob Turner has good stuff."

The Tigers still have some time before having to make the final decision on the fifth starter. It may be the last of the three most major roster decisions the Tigers have to make before Opening Day.

"I think they possibly could all funnel down to one day, but you could possibly make one of those decisions sooner than the other two. You could probably get your position players, but the bullpen spot and the fifth starter’s probably going to go real late — because we don’t know. We have no idea," Leyland said.
"We have a better idea than we did a week or so ago, because it looks like Turner’s obviously going to be eliminated from that, right now, because of his health situation, and Crosby’s already down. We do have a better idea than we did a week or two ago, but we don’t have any idea. We’re just continuing to run ‘em out there. Like I told you before, I’ll be thrilled to make that announcement to you guys, but as you know, there’s not going to be any hints or anything, because I don’t have any hints for you.
"I really don’t."

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