Pitching Almost Set
the off season, Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski named the
bullpen as the most area in need. He started his free agent signings
by adding closer Troy Percival, and with the addition of Kyle Farnsworth,
the Tigers have made another step in improving their bullpen.
Last season the Tigers brought in Al Levine to help Danny Patterson
with middle relief. Levine was a well respected pitcher with a history
of strong pitching. They also added Ugueth Urbina to replace Matt
Anderson as the team’s closer. Another key move of theirs
was the signing of the hard throwing Esteban Yan. Although the moves
looked good on paper, they didn’t pan out. As a result, Yan
is gone, Levine is gone, and Urbina has been move to setup man (where
incidentally, he saw good success in this role in Florida).
With the addition of Farnsworth from the Cubs, the Tigers lose a
young Roberto Novoa. Some would consider Novoa a good future MLB
pitcher. Others would argue the opposite. Either way, it was almost
a guaranty that Novoa would end up in Toledo this season, and there
were no guaranties that he would ever become a Tiger.
Farnsworth has a strong arm. He’s clocked consistently in
the upper 90s to 100 range. He has “good stuff”. His
downside, if you can call it one, is he can be a little hot to handle.
To me it spells intensity. Passion. Something the Tigers need. Someone
with fire. Someone a little out of the box to shake things up.
The bullpen has been dull to say the least. Jamie Walker was the
best pitcher. Danny Patterson hasn’t been the same since his
surgery. Franklyn German hasn’t lived up to any expectations.
He appears coachable, but can’t take what he learns in practice
into the games. Farnsworth should add some depth around these guys.
With Urbina setting up Percival, things should be in good shape.
The bullpen isn’t the only question mark. The starting pitching
has some things to reveal to us. Who will the ace be? Most likely,
Johnson, but is it time to turn that over to Maroth? Bonderman is
good in the number three position. He’s young and you don’t
want to pressure him. Maroth has been through the war. He’s
tough, can go nine innings and has uncharacteristic mental toughness.
That brings us to a point of question. Ledezma or Knotts? Ledezma
came out strong for the Tigers in the last part of the season last
year. Knotts started off strong. Somewhere between the two is a
happy medium of consistency. Whether its Knotts looking over his
shoulder into the bullpen at Ledezma, or Ledezma being ready for
a starting job.
We’re a day away from Spring Training. All indications say
the Tigers have depth in fielding and pitching. The problem is what
type of depth and how much of depth there could be is unknown. Farnsworth
and Percival are notable signings, but not landmark signings. The
fortunate part of it all is that they could be just what the Tigers
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