The Detroit Tigers have the utmost confidence in their first four starting pitchers in the rotation, but the jury is still out on who No. 5 will be.
Ace Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez make up what has to be the deadliest starting rotation in the American League, if not all of baseball. The only part missing is a quality fifth starter who can put the Tigers over the top this season.
Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly are currently battling it out for the final spot. Both pitchers have been phenomenal during Spring Training as they are continuously making it very difficult for manager Jim Leyland to decide on who will best suit the role.
Porcello is 3-1 with a 2.50 earned run average, 18 strikeouts and a .209 opponent batting average in five starts this spring. The 24-year old is having his best Spring Training yet as he is determined to build off of his decent performance from 2012.
Meanwhile, Smyly is 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA, 17 strikeouts and a .238 opponent batting average in six starts. He pitched well in his first season in the big leagues last year, which is why he has been given the opportunity to fight for a starting job this spring.
Even though Smyly is pitching at a very high level, Porcello is outplaying several players in camp, including Fister and Sanchez. The fact that the right-hander has four years of MLB service under his belt also has something to do with why Leyland is leaning his way. Detroit is determined to get back to the World Series, and they will need every single contributor on the Tigers in top condition in order to do so.
If this was any other team, there is a very good chance Smyly would be a member of the starting rotation. However, there is simply not any room among the starting five for him this season.