As a baseball fan, there are three things you can seemingly count on in life, death, taxes, and the Detroit Tigers bullpen being an abomination.
Well, the 2017 Major League Baseball season is underway and once again, the Tigers bullpen has been the weak link on what would otherwise be a playoff contender. Through 12 games, the pen has posted an embarrassing 6.64 ERA, which ranks 28th out of 30 MLB teams.
With the exception of a few guys (Justin Wilson, Alex Wilson, and Shane Greene), the Tigers bullpen has been much to be desired. Bruce Rondon, who finished strong in 2016, has already pitched himself back down to Toledo after posting an ERA of 40.50 in three appearances.
One pitcher who may be joining Rondon before we know it is Anibal Sanchez. After tweaking his delivery in the middle of Spring Training, he dominated hitters from there on out and earned a spot in the Tigers bullpen. Unfortunately, when the team headed north, Sanchez's success did not come along. So far in 2017, he has pitched in four games, giving up 11 runs in nine innings of work. The former ERA champion, despite being owed $16 million this season (and a $5 million buyout for 2018), could find himself released if he does not turn things around immediately.
Somehow, Detroit is 8-4 after 12 games, good enough for first place in the American League Central, but if the pen continues to struggle the way it has, that record will slip quickly. That being said, there are a few pitchers out there who could improve the Tigers bullpen almost overnight. Those players include a familiar face, a player who has already pitched in 130 games with Detroit, and a phenom who's waiting his chance to dominate. Let's take a look at three moves the Tigers can make to improve their bullpen.
Recall Blaine Hardy
The first move I would love to see the Detroit Tigers make is to recall Blaine Hardy from Toledo. To be honest, I'm not sure why Hardy is not already on the staff instead of Kyle Ryan, but it may be just a matter of time before they switch places. Ryan, in five appearances so far in 2017, has put runners on base like it's his job and he does not seem to be getting any better. With a WHIP of 2.25 and a batting average against of .385, it's time for Ryan to work on some things in Toledo.
Hardy, on the other hand, has been stellar so far this season. In a combined 7 2/3 innings with the Tigers (1 IP) and Mudhens (6.2 IP), he has given up only one earned run while striking out eight and allowing just a single walk.
Cut ties with Anibal Sanchez and sign Doug Fister
Let me start by saying that I have always been an Anibal Sanchez supporter, both as a pitcher and as a human being. That being said, and I hate to say it, but it's time for the Detroit Tigers to move on.
Heading into Spring Training, the competition for fifth starter was between Matt Boyd, Sanchez, and Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey eliminated himself from contention right off the bat and Sanchez looked to be heading in the same direction. That's when he altered his delivery and caught fire, almost forcing GM Al Avila and the Tigers to give him one final shot with the team. Well, Sanchez has not had that shot but has looked awful, leaving the team with no choice but to release him and eat the money he is still owed.
One familiar face who is still a free agent is Doug Fister, who pitched with the Houston Astros in 2016. Fister, who is 33, struggled last season, going 12-13 with a 4.64 ERA in 32 starts. To be honest, I'm slightly surprised he was not picked up by a team prior to the start of the season, but he could be looking for too much cash. If Fister were willing to work out a cheap 1-year deal to come back to Detroit (He pitched for the Tigers from 2011-2013), they could catch lightning in a bottle. One thing to keep in mind is that even if the Tigers were to sign Fister, he would have to spend some time in the minors getting back in pitching shape.
Bring back Joe Jimenez
Last, but certainly not least, the Detroit Tigers have to bring back their phenom Joe Jimenez FOR GOOD! Ideally, it would have been nice to let the youngster marinade a bit longer in the minors to work on his secondary pitches, but this team cannot afford to do that any longer.
Jimenez may only be 22-years-old, but his fastball is Major League ready and as long as he continues to develop his off-speed stuff, he has a chance to be a dominant closer for many years.
Now, let me make myself clear. THIS IS NOT a call for Jimenez to come up and dethrone Francisco Rodriguez as the Tigers closer immediately. I would like to see him come back up and work his way into the seventh inning man and then go from there. If Rodriguez struggles to the point where a change needed, and Jimenez has gained the confidence of the coaching staff, then maybe the Tigers pull the trigger and make the young flame thrower the closer.
What do you think, Nation? Which pitchers do you think the Detroit Tigers should add to their struggling bullpen? Is there somebody we are forgetting?