Tigers see top three picks as starters

The Tigers’ turn towards college pitchers with their first three selections in the First-Year Player Draft Thursday evening led to speculation that Detroit was looking to build up bullpen help, potentially fast-tracking one or more of them. The pick of Corey Knebel, who spent most of the last three seasons closing at the University of Texas, at 39th overall especially led to that speculation.

They’ve done it before. In 2008, Detroit’s top four picks were all relievers, from first-rounder Ryan Perry to Cody Satterwhite, Scott Green and Brett Jacobson.

This is not the case this year, Tigers VP of amateur scouting David Chadd said on Friday morning’s conference call.

“My guess is that they all three will start in [short-season Class A] Connecticut,” Chadd said, “as starters.”

The Tigers definitely see Knebel as a starter. Yes, he closed at Texas, and finished four shy of Huston Street’s career saves mark, but he worked as a starter briefly at the end of his sophomore season, and he has the foundation of secondary pitches with an overhand curveball, another breaking pitch that’s more of a slurve, and a changeup that Knebel says he hasn’t thrown in games because he didn’t need it in relief.

“I’ll definitely have four pitches,” Knebel told MLB.com in a phone conversation last night.

Knebel said he has been working with University of Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson since season’s end on using all his pitches and improving his stamina.

“I do feed off all the adrenaline as a closer. That’s really what got me going,” Knebel said. “When I became a starter, it was a lot different for me. It was hard to handle at the beginning in college, and I was more relaxed surprisingly.”

1 Comment

Seven picks-seven pitchers. I think some of the hurlers in Toledo that have been in the system for a while now might see thier jobs in jeopardy in the future. I’d like to see two or three assigned to West Michigan, who could use them for a playoff push in the second half. The Whitecaps may really benefit here!
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