Early spring training Tigers rotation is set
While Tigers manager Brad Ausmus doesn’t have a season-opening rotation order yet, his rotation for the first few games of Spring Training is set. It’ll begin with prospect Drew VerHagen, who will start the team’s traditional opening exhibition with Florida Southern College next Tuesday at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Before you start speculating about VerHagen’s chances to knock on Detroit’s door as a potential sixth starter in case of injury, remember that Tigers top pitching prospect Andy Oliver started against the Mocs two years ago, the last time the exhibition led off the Spring Training game.
From there, the projected Major League rotation begins to slot in. Drew Smyly, back in a starting role, will lead off the Tigers’ Grapefruit League slate against the Braves next Wednesday at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex, followed by Rick Porcello in the back half the home-and-home set against the Braves Thursday at Lakeland.
The Tigers’ first split-squad day Friday will feature the reigning Cy Young winner and an insurance starter. Max Scherzer will face the Yankees in Lakeland, while Jose Alvarez makes the trip to Clearwater to face the Phillies.
Ausmus had already ruled out Justin Verlander from the first turn through the Spring Training rotation as he builds up his workload following core muscle surgery. The goal is to get Verlander five starts this spring, which should be enough to stretch him out for the start of the season.
Alvarez, who filled in for Anibal Sanchez while he was on the disabled list last summer, could provide an insurance plan if Verlander suffers a setback and isn’t ready for the start of the season.
In many springs under Leyland, the early rotation would provide a clue on the Opening Day starter if you counted out five game days from each start. Sure enough, Scherzer’s start Feb. 28 would put his spot on turn for March 31 if everybody stays in order (and if you consider the Tigers’ off-day March 19 as a day for someone to start a minor-league game, as has been the case in recent years). Because neither Verlander nor Sanchez have been slotted in yet, it’s a little fuzzier, but for now, it looks like a much easier path to Opening Day for Scherzer than anyone else.