[tps_header]Baseball is rapidly approaching. By the end of this week, pitchers and catchers for the majority of teams will have reported to their respective Spring Training camp.
The first workout for pitchers and catchers on the Detroit Tigers takes place on Friday, February 19th. First full squad workouts are on Monday the 23rd.
Tigers General Manager Al Avila did a lot of retooling this offseason addressing a lot of needs, most of which were in a timely manner. The laundry list of roster changes was highlighted by newcomers Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton, both of whom are expected to make a big impact early and often.
However, there are still some questions that need to be answered before the big league club kicks off the 2016 season down in Miami.
Here are five storylines to watch down in Lakeland, Florida this spring.[/tps_header]
[tps_title]1. Who will be that No. 5 starter?[/tps_title]
Detroit needed to fix the starting rotation in the biggest way possible. Signing Zimmermann gives the Tigers a solid 1-2 punch with Justin Verlander. The team also signed Mike Pelfrey to a two-year deal and Anibal Sanchez is hoping for a bounceback season that was highlighted by inconsistencies and capped by a shoulder injury.
So who will be the fifth starter in the rotation? Detroit has some options and there will be a competition.
22-year-old Daniel Norris was the centerpiece Detroit got in return for trading David Price to Toronto. Despite missing a month with an oblique injury, Norris finished with a solid 3.68 ERA in eight starts. A southpaw with high ceiling, Norris appears to be the leader in the clubhouse.
Fellow lefty Matt Boyd also came over from the Toronto organization in the Price trade. A bit more polished than Norris in the scouting reports, Boyd struggled in what was already a lost season for Detroit, accumulating a 6.57 ERA in 11 games (10 starts). The 25-year-old is probably positioned to start at Triple-A Toledo this season.
27-year-old Shane Greene was acquired from the Yankees in a three-team deal prior to the 2015 season. Detroit hoped he would provide some durability and improve on his solid rookie season in 2014. Greene was lights out in his first three starts, posting a dazzling 0.40 ERA.
Things derailed quickly for him though, as he struggled with command and not getting enough ground balls. His confidence was shot and he eventually was demoted to Triple-A. He ended up suffering a hand-numbing injury that put him on the shelf for the final two months. The Tigers are hoping he is healthy first and foremost. Should the left-handers slip up in Spring Training, that leaves the door open for Greene.
The dark horse in this competition is Tigers’ top prospect Michael Fulmer. Fulmer was the prized piece the Tigers received from the Mets in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes. He had an outstanding 2015 campaign in the minors. In 22 starts, Fulmer compiled a 2.74 ERA, averaging a strikeout per inning. Also just 22 years of age, Fulmer did not reach higher than Double-A last year. The Tigers probably would prefer to start him off at Triple-A, but that will not stop him from competing for that fifth starter spot.