Your move, Jim Leyland (USAT Images)
Yup, Detroit's bullpen is stuck in committee.
Bruce Rondon and his triple-digit fastball will open the season in Toledo — the 22-year-old had a few nice moments this spring (19 Ks, 12.1 IP), as well as some awful moments (9 BB, 17 H) — leaving the Tigers, at least for now, without an end-game plan.
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Here's manager Jim Leyland discussing his 'pen, via the Detroit Free Press:
"Look for anything, because that's the way it's going to be," manager Jim Leyland said Thursday about using a committee of closers.
"Any one of the seven can close a game, that's just the way you have to look on it," Leyland said. "I might call on anybody, and I'll have that little meeting with them: 'You've got to be ready to pitch at all times, unless you need a day off.' Any one of them might get the ball to get the third out in the ninth."
So basically it's a fantasy mess.
The seven relievers referenced above by Leyland are right-handers Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Al Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal, and lefties Phil Coke, Darin Downs and Drew Smyly. From that group, the strongest near-term saves candidates figure to be Benoit — he's great, plus he's been the primary eighth-inning guy — and Phil Coke, who earned a pair of saves in the ALCS last October.
Alburquerque may just have the filthiest stuff in Detroit's bullpen — his career swinging-strike rate is 15.8 percent and he's dominant against both righties and lefties — but he also has durability issues. Villarreal fits the closer profile — hard-thrower, fastball/slider guy, high K-rate — but he isn't near the top of the hierarchy. Dotel has 109 career saves on his resume, but he's also 39, a decade beyond his peak.
At this point, Benoit would be my primary fantasy pick-up, with Coke and Alburquerque as Plans B and C. We should note that righty batters have mauled Coke (splits here), but it's easy to imagine him poaching a few saves based on handedness match-ups.
As Pianowski wrote on Thursday, it sure seems like there's a decent chance that Detroit's eventual saves leader isn't on the current roster. (Wish he were on the Cubs' roster, but that's probably not the case). Brian Wilson ain't walkin' through that door just yet. We're just getting started with this 'pen, gamers. Welcome to the 2013 saves chase.
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