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News » Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2008-11-29

Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2008-11-29

Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2008-11-29
The Tigers may have to risk opening the season with most of the same starters who contributed substantially to Detroit's disappointing 2008 campaign.

That would include right-handers Justin Verlander, Armando Galarraga, injured Jeremy Bonderman and probably Zach Miner, plus another starter to come from a group that includes left-handers Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis.

Free agent right-hander Freddy Garcia remains a possibility, but through Nov. 24 he had yet to make a pitch in winter ball, something most clubs were anxious to see. He ended the season pitching Detroit's last game but leaving mid-game with a stiff neck that was said to be unrelated to his right shoulder surgery in 2007.

Medical reports on Bonderman have been positive since his early-season surgery to remove a right rib and eliminate the source of a blood clot that put him out of action two months into the season.

Miner, who joined the rotation from the bullpen and wound up 8-5 with a 4.27 ERA, is likely to remain in the rotation but remains the choice to get shunted to the bullpen if the Tigers bulk up their starting staff from outside.

A key for Detroit will be getting either Robertson or Willis back on track. Both have endured three seasons of decline, have two years remaining on three-year deals and are too expensive for the Tigers to pay both to pitch ineffectively.

"Nate is working very hard this offseason with Pilates," GM Dave Dombrowski said. "He's getting in great shape, and his flexibility is improving. He's got to earn a spot in the starting rotation but will get that opportunity in the spring.

"Zach can pitch very well in both capacities, but today he would be a starter."

Robertson's ERA has gone from 3.85 to 4.76 to 6.35 over the past three seasons. If he doesn't regain his slider, his ability to help comes into question because he can't pitch exclusively off his fastball.

Willis tweaked his pitching motion, mostly in the minors, last summer but in some late-season starts showed control is still an issue. He gets outs when he throws strikes -- but he can't throw enough strikes.

The Tigers are expected to hold the line on payroll, but built-in factors keep them out of the major free agent market.

That means the organization is forced to sell its customers the same rotation that contributed to its poor showing last summer. It's a risk the Tigers may have to take.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: November 29, 2008

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