September 1 is right around the corner, and for the Detroit Tigers there are some projected changes in the works. There will be a large pitching staff shakeup that will drastically alter the look of the bullpen.
Some of these moves have very big question marks associated with them as to if they will work. For the Tigers to stay playoff contenders, they will have to work.
Here is a preview of the changes.
Rick Porcello to the bullpen
This move will hurt his Rookie of the Year chances, but nonetheless it is a move that will probably be made. The kid is 20-years old, only in his second season of professional baseball.
As a result, the bullpen move will be made to limit Porcello's innings, in hopes of not damaging his young arm. It is a seemingly prudent move, since pitchers seem to be soft in the current era, despite Nolan Ryan's attempts to change that in Texas.
The outcome? On top of someone else being the fifth starter, the Tigers have to hope that Porcello becomes a decent relief pitcher for the final month of the season, and perhaps beyond into postseason glory.
By decent, I mean reliable. That is the key, that is what management is looking for.
Nate Robertson to the rotation?
Robertson began a rehab assignment in Toledo on August 4, recovering from surgery on his pitching elbow to remove fatty deposits.
I was in attendance for that first game. The results? 2.2 innings pitched on a 40-pitch limit. He threw 31 strikes and had decent velocity. He allowed one run.
Robertson was the starter for that game, and is being stretched out to become the Tigers' fifth starter in September.
His rehab pitching started when it did so that he could take full advantage of the one month maximum for a rehab assignment, then be activated once the major league rosters expand on September 1.
The outcome? Do not panic, yet. In all likelihood Robertson would make a maximum of five starts. However, with a tight division race, every game in September could count.
Jeremy Bonderman to the bullpen
Bonderman's situation is much like Robertson's. He began his rehab assignment the same day in Toledo, but has been pitching in relief.
He is not yet his old self, but after the major surgeries he has had, that may not ever happen. His velocity, once 96 mph for his fastball, was reduced to 89 mph for his first and only major league appearance so far this season.
That was a start in June against the White Sox. Since then he went through a period of being shut down, before beginning his rehab assignment earlier this month.
The results? His velocity was up to 91-92 mph. Supposedly he has been working on a new pitch as well, a split-finger.
Now the Tigers need to hope that his splitter works. If it does, that means he has adapted to not having a live arm. He would be able to induce ground ball outs instead of having to blow hitters away. This increases Bonderman's chances for success.
The outcome? He could become a valuable middle reliever for the remainder of the season.
To shakeup the team this way could be inviting disaster, but disaster is a partner that must be danced with.
The real linchpin in all of this is the top of the pitching rotation. The Tigers need three-horse dominance from Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and Jarrod Washburn in order for all of this to work.
Verlander delivered with eight masterful innings against Boston to close the series. Now it is up to everyone else to keep it going.
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