One of the good parts about Spring Training (maybe the only good part) is following the position battles as they unfold throughout camp. For the Detroit Tigers, there are two big battles that are taking place in Florida, that for the starting job in centerfield and the other being for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
On Sunday, the Tigers announced they were parting ways with reliever Mark Lowe, despite still owing him $5.5 million. With Lowe out of the picture, coupled with the resurgence of Anibal Sanchez in the competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, some have speculated that could spell doom for Mike Pelfrey. Of course, the fact that Pelfrey has been in hot water is something we have known since last season and that water did not get hotter with Lowe being cut.
That being said, who is going to be the No. 5 starter for the Tigers when the season begins and how will that move dictate what the bullpen looks like?
In my humble opinion, it is a no-brainer that there are only two possible scenarios which could play out and both are in the best interest of the future of the Matt Boyd as a starter.
Scenario #1: Matt Boyd is No. 5 starter, Anibal Sanchez goes to the bullpen, and Mike Pelfrey is cut
Matt Boyd, who is 26-years-old, came into camp on a mission and has not looked back. As of Sunday, he had 21 Ks and ZERO walks in 21.2 innings of work and looks like he could be ready to head north with the Tigers as the No. 5 starter.
If Tigers GM Al Avila and manager Brad Ausmus do decide to roll with Boyd, Anibal Sanchez would head to the bullpen as a long-relief guy and potential 6th starter if needed, and Pelfrey would be released.
Scenario #2: Anibal Sanchez is No. 5 starter, Mike Pelfrey/Other goes to the bullpen, and Matt Boyd goes to AAA Toledo
If you would have told me two weeks ago that Anibal Sanchez would somehow claw himself back into the race for a spot in the Detroit Tigers starting rotation, I would have looked at you cross-eyed. Not only had he lost his groove over the past two seasons (59 home runs allowed), but his spring training did not get off to a stellar start.
But then something happened. Sanchez made a mechanical adjustment to his delivery and has since looked unstoppable. In fact, in three starts since the tweak, he has only allowed two hits while striking out 16 batters in 14 innings of work.
If Avila and Ausmus decide Sanchez is their guy for the No. 5 spot, I believe they could start Pelfrey in the bullpen and Boyd would head to Triple-A Toledo.
Is Matt Boyd a better pitcher than Mike Pelfrey? There is no doubt about it. That being said, I just cannot fathom the Detroit Tigers hindering the youngster’s development as a starter by putting him in the bullpen when Opening Day rolls around. With that in mind, Avila and Ausmus absolutely must find a way to keep Boyd with the club and the only other way to do that is by naming him the No. 5 starter.
So, when the dust settles, I predict Boyd will indeed be the No. 5 starter and Sanchez will head to the bullpen for long-relief duties. This will allow the Tigers to release Pelfrey, who has done nothing to earn a spot on the roster. If Boyd were to struggle out of the gates, Sanchez could fill in and Boyd could go to Toledo for some more seasoning.