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Detroit Tigers: Fifth Starter Watch, Fourth Edition

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 17:  Duane Below #64 of the Detroit Tigers throws the baseball against the Minnesota Twins during a MLB game at Comerica Park on August 17, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Jay WierengaCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2012

If you are like me, you have been eagerly following the Detroit Tigers' search for their fifth starter.

This is the fourth in my series.

The Plot Thickens

Heading into this spring, it seemed as though the Tigers had some strong internal candidates for the job.

They had the young phenom in Jacob Turner.

They had the fireballing lefty in Casey Crosby.

They had the enigmatic, yet talented Andy Oliver.

And they had three relatively unknown soft-tossing lefties in Drew Smyly, Duane Below and Adam Wilk.

At first, it seemed like this would be a very hard decision, but for all the right reasons. All six candidates started out strongly.

But one by one, they fell by the wayside.

First, Turner flamed out and, thanks to nagging injuries, was sent to Triple A camp.

Next, Crosby got a case of the wilds, and was likewise shipped.

And just as it appeared that Oliver had separated himself from the rest, he came crashing down as well and is also no longer in the running.

Wilk had some strong moments, but ultimately was not ready for the job.

This leaves just Below and Smyly as internal candidates for the job.

Duane Below

Below started out strong like the rest, but has definitely come back down to earth.

Below's most recent appearance was also his worst, allowing four walks, a home run and three earned runs.

Below still is a strong candidate to make the team, as he has value as a reliever as well, but he has a terrible ERA (5.17) and does not have overwhelming stuff.

Personally, I see Below as a poor man's Mike Maroth, although he does throw slightly harder.

Below needs to have pinpoint control in order to be effective, and this spring he just hasn't been.

Drew Smyly

Smyly certainly has the look of the last man standing.

He is the only one of the candidates that didn't see his ERA balloon out of control, he is the only one that hasn't had at least one terrible performance and he has only allowed seven hits all spring.

He also is the only one that has consistently thrown strikes, as 65 of his 88 pitches have been.

That being said, he had his worst performance in his most recent start, giving up three earned runs and two walks as well as his first home run of the spring.

It also appears that the Tigers have been the least interested in his performance, giving him only four appearances all spring. That pales in comparison to Below (seven).

So only two conclusions could be drawn from this.

Either the Tigers have been so impressed with Smyly that they have all but given him the job, or they don't really think he is a strong candidate and don't want to waste opportunities to let others wow them.

It certainly is a weird situation.

Conclusion

Based solely on the numbers, this job should be Smyly's to lose. But given that he only has pitched in four games, I don't think that the Tigers are sold on him.

Personally, I think the Tigers are still looking at a trade for the fifth starter. But if they do decide to stay internal, there really is no sound argument why it shouldn't be Smyly.

Where can I comment?

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