Spring Training is nearing its end and the Tigers have some big decisions to make regarding their starting rotation. Who is going to get the fifth starting rotation spot?
Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris appear to be locks for the first four spots, but Matt Boyd has done all he can to earn the fifth spot in the rotation. He is battling Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey for the last spot, but Boyd deserves the last spot due to his 2016 campaign and strong spring.
Boyd finished the 2016 season with a 6-5 record, 4.53 earned run average, 82 strikeouts and 1.29 WHIP. Boyd struggled at times last season, but his stats are a bit inflated due to a couple of bad starts. He was pretty good most of the season and has had an even better spring.
As of right now, Boyd has a 2-1 record, 3.24 earned run average and 16 strikeouts in 16.2 innings pitched this spring. In his last start, Boyd went five innings, giving up six hits and one earned run while striking out four en route to a Tigers win.
Not only has Boyd performed well personally, but his competition hasn’t been great. Sanchez struggled with control in 2016 and found himself moving from the starting rotation, to the bullpen and back to the starting rotation throughout the year. He finished the 2016 season with a 7-13 record, 5.87 earned run average, 135 strikeouts and a 1.46 WHIP.
Sanchez’s spring has been better, but still not to the caliber of Boyd. Sanchez has a 1-1 record, 10.24 earned run average and nine strikeouts in 9.2 innings pitched. Sanchez was able to throw four scoreless innings in his last appearance, but he’s still having trouble with control. In his first three appearances of Spring Training, Sanchez gave up 11 runs in 5.2 innings. Sanchez has the tools to be a dominant pitcher, but right now, he isn’t consistent enough to start every five days.
Pelfrey is also in the mix for the Tigers’ last starting rotation spot, but he appears to be the third option. In 2016 Pelfrey went 4-10 with a 5.07 earned run average, 56 strikeouts and a 1.73 WHIP. After starting the 2016 season 0-5, he found some success down the stretch, but at the age of 33, he just doesn’t have the upside that Boyd does.
He hasn’t helped himself in Spring Training either. Pelfrey has a 2-3 record, 7.11 earned run average and six strikeouts in 12.2 innings pitched. He has two wins in his last two appearances, throwing a combined 6.2 innings, giving up two runs and striking out four.
Pelfrey will have a hard time cracking the rotation after his performance last season and rough spring, but he does give the Tigers a solid starting option should someone get hurt.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus will not name a fifth starter, but he did say that Boyd has pitched the best of all of the guys in the running. As of right now, it appears that the job is Boyd’s to lose and he is the best option for the Tigers to start the season.
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