Help Wanted: Relief Pitchers for Detroit
Before the All Star break, the American League Central was considered a joke. Who could dispute? The Twins and talentless Royals were bottom feeders; the Indians couldn’t find what made them a threat last year; the White Sox were king of the hill, but they weren’t fooling anyone, and then there were the Tigers— the biggest surprise of all. Their off-season rocked the sports world with the free agent signing of Prince Fielder; what seemed a sure thing for an AL pennant contender looked bleak.
Detroit had a couple days at the top of the division, but as of Saturday, they fell behind Chicago once again, and sit a game and a half out of first. But one thing is clear about the Tigers of 2012: when their bats are hot, they are hot. They’re in the top five in batting in the majors. This is a trustworthy lineup with a lot of options.
So it’s clear now, more than ever, the one thing that holds Detroit from meeting expectations seems to be their pitching. Their rotation is solid at times, but the up and down starts of Rick Porcello and Doug Fister puts pressure on the lineup to produce more runs. And let’s not forget about the bullpen. With the exception of Jose Valverde, they’re an undesirable bunch. The best teams right now are those with strong bullpens. Let’s take the first place Texas Rangers for example. Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando and Joe Nathan are beautiful compliments to rookie sensation Yu Darvish (11-7) and Matt Harrison (12-5). Even a team like the Cincinnati Reds, who currently sit atop the NL Central, can always count on their relievers to finish the job. The Reds’ bullpen currently holds a league best 2.50 ERA.
There were mixed feelings about Monday’s trade that sent top pitching prospect Jacob Turner to Miami for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. Yes, Sanchez gives the Tigers a starter capable of quality starts. He can go deep in the later innings, but the biggest question mark still remains: what about the bullpen? Let’s not forget, this is a bullpen that has seen more changes than the American Idol judges. During the beginning of the season, Al Alburquerque went down with a non-displaced stress fracture in his right (throwing) elbow. A month later, Daniel Schlereth was sidelined with shoulder trouble. Both remain on the 60-Day DL. This would throw their staff into tale spin that would show us the likes of Darin Downs, Brayan Villarreal, Luis Marte and a cast of characters from Toledo that continued Detroit’s struggles to be dominant on a daily basis.
The trade deadline is July 31 at 4:00 p.m. Many hope GM Dave Dombroski will bolster the pen, but don’t be surprised if he sits on what they have already. He’s been very vocal this season about the progress of their farm system. Out of the 188 draft picks they’ve had the past four years, 89 of them have been spent on arms. Dombroski will be sure he gets the most out of them.
So now what? Do the hopes and dreams of an entire city rest on this merry-go-round of pitchers? Or will there be a pleasant surprise at the deadline? We’ll have to wait July 31st.
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