[tps_title]3. Add some bullpen arms[/tps_title]
*Sigh* Oh, the bullpen….where do we begin?
The Tigers let go of Joba Chamberlain mid-season. They also designated Tom Gorzelanny for assignment at the same time of Joba’s release, although he accepted a minor league assignment and has since returned with a new arm slot for his release, but hasn’t really shown major positive changes. The team brought in Neftali Feliz in July after he was let go by the Texas Rangers. Al Ablurquerque has been his typical roller coaster self, going through peaks and valleys all season long. He is one of the handful of Tigers facing arbitration in the offseason.
Despite how painful it has been to watch many pitchers struggle after trotting out of the bullpen, some pitchers have pitched very well. Alex Wilson, who was kind of an afterthought in the deal that netted Yoenis Cespedes from Boston last December, has emerged as a very reliable arm out of the pen. In his first real full season, Wilson has a 2.22 ERA in 58 appearances for the Tigers.
Lefty reliever Blaine Hardy has put together back-to-back solid seasons for the Tigers. He has a 2.82 ERA in 106 appearances over the last two seasons.
Two arms that I think have emerged as ones to stay in the pen long term are Drew VerHagen and Kyle Ryan. Both are young with still a lot to develop and were brought up through the system as starters. VerHagen has since turned into a reliever with starter stuff, while Ryan has been called upon at times the last couple seasons for Detroit to make spot starts. Having both coming out of the pen not only provides depth, but offers stretch relief in certain situations.
So on paper, if I were in charge, it’d be Wilson, Hardy, Alburquerque, VerHagen, and Ryan. That leaves room for two or three more arms. All five of these guys are pitchers with not a lot of track record to rely on for “high pressure” situations. So that opens the door for someone like New York Mets reliever Tyler Clippard. Clippard was acquired by New York from Oakland at the trade deadline. He has a career ERA under 3.00 and has experience both closing and setting up, earning much of his reputation from his time in Washington from 2008-’14.
A big question from now all the way into next spring will be the one of Bruce Rondon. Rondon was sent home Tuesday for reasons revolving around his “effort level”. He had been given the closer role to finish out the season as part of a grooming project, but it has not worked out thus far. The move is an effort (hah) on the Tigers’ part to allow Bruce to re-think his priorities and come back with 110% effort and commitment. If he returns with said effort and commitment, another positive to having Tyler Clippard around will provide Bruce with pointers and tools, because of his experience closing. If Rondon or another pitcher isn’t capable, the team would then have Clippard to rely on for closing out games.