Tigers option Oliver to Toledo

The battle for the Tigers’ fifth starter job is now down to two pitchers. And neither the perceived favorite going in, nor the perceived favorite from last week, are left in the field.

The Tigers optioned Andy Oliver to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday after two subpar outings, including six earned runs in three-plus innings against the Astros on Tuesday, ruined what had the makings of a breakout spring for the power left-hander.

With Oliver out, the field for the fifth starter is now down to hard-charging prospect Drew Smyly and more experienced left-hander Duane Below. Smyly stayed in the race by pitching 4 2/3 innings with three runs allowed against the Cardinals on Wednesday in Jupiter. Below will get his final audition Friday against the Orioles in Sarasota.

Oliver held Grapefruit League opponents scoreless for his first nine innings this spring, including four innings of one-hit ball against the Mets March 12. His performances seemed to suggest that his mid-summer struggles last season at Triple-A Toledo were behind him, and he was able to command the ball consistently.

However, a five-walk outing against the Twins last Wednesday put that into serious question.

Tuesday’s outing, including seven hits and a 30-pitch second inning, raised too many doubts for the Tigers to break camp with him. His earned-run average, in turn, rose from 0.00 to 5.17 in just over a week.

Oliver will be on his third turn through Toledo. He ended the 2010 season there before spending most of last year in the Mud Hens rotation. He’ll join top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who appeared to be the favorite for the job until early spring struggles and a bout with shoulder tendinitis put him too far behind.


Smyly or Below. They could take ’em both. Smyly appears to have the bigger upside, whether it’s now or later, and I’m confident Below can pitch in the bigs. Depends on if they want that extra lefty in the pen. If I’m reading the situation correctly.

why have an extra lefty if you can have an extra righty? Aren’t most batters right handed….and Dotel (while excellent on righties) is old and can’t pitch against lefties. Al^2 is the guy who isn’t in the pen…..Coke and the Alaskan Assassin (schlereth) have lefties covered (Coke is a workhorse and Daniel isn’t incapable of pitching to righties).
So IMO it’s either Marte or Villarreal for the bullpen spot available…..you could call it the “2nd string middle innings righty”. Gawd how I wish Al^2 was healthy.

like someone to pitch when Dotel isn’t the right guy (i.e. two lefties behind a righty or he pitched yesterday)…….and there are too many righties coming up for Coke or Schlereth

If Below is not the fifth starter, I like his versatility in the pen.

That is right on. He gets groundballs which can turn into doubleplays.

In the case of both Below and Smyly, they’re starters and have to be effective against RH hitters. I’m just saying it isn’t necessarily an “either/or” situation on who goes north. You’d also want to look at which teams are on the schedule the first few weeks. On paper, we have a good bullpen, but they have to get the outs, obviously.

With our predominatnly RHP rotation a LHP who can throw long relief is a pretty good idea. I would not rule out Below AND Smyly. Q will be the RHP in the bullpen that would be most imposing when he gets back and probably displaces Below or Smyly.
Not thrilled about Marte and Villareal seems like he could well have the same reults as last year.

one factor that goes against Smyly is that he has to be added to the 40 man if he makes the squad. if he then proves not ready to perform at the major league level, the Tigers will use up one of his options to send him back down.
something that the GM will be considering when making the final decision…perhaps the deciding factor if the decision makers are deadlocked.

Good point, Woody.

That will have to happen at some point anyway likely.
I do think Below has the inside track though. It will be very interesting to see how both finish up their springs.

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