Detroit Tigers Have New Bullpen Candidate in Kevin Whelan

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers have signed a potential bullpen candidate in reliever Kevin Whelan.

Whelan was a fourth-round pick by the Tigers back in 2005 and was part one of three players that the Tigers traded to the New York Yankees for Gary Sheffield back in 2006.

Whelan has spent almost all of his career in the minor leagues, making just two big-league appearances back in 2011.

But, with the Tigers’ bullpen uncertainty, Whelan has a shot at pitching in the big leagues this season. Whelan has spent the last three seasons pitching at the Triple-A level and has posted some promising numbers there. In 2011, he put up some of the best numbers of his career, going 2-3 with a 2.75 ERA and 23 saves. What was even more impressive was Whelan’s strikeout-to-base-on-balls ratio. Whelan struck out 54 batters and walked just 14 in 52.1 innings for a ratio of 3.86 SO/BB. Those numbers warranted Whelan a call-up to the Yankees, but Whelan struggled with his control. He walked five batters in just 1.2 innings of work and was demoted.

Whelan has struggled in the walks department in the two seasons since the call-up, allowing over five walks per nine innings, but if he can find his control this year, he could be a candidate for a bullpen spot. In the past two years, Whelan has posted strikeouts per nine-inning rates of 12.8 and 13, which are great numbers for a reliever. If Whelan would have posted those kind of strikeout numbers with the low walk numbers he had in 2011, Whelan would have had a SO/BB ratio of over five. Lowering the walk rate would also help lower Whelan’s ERA, as it would eliminate quite a few base runners.

Because of the inconsistency and the fact that he was signed to a minor-league deal, Whelan seems destined to start the year in Triple-A. However, if Whelan can put it all together and post some decent numbers, he could be a call-up candidate later in the year. The Tigers have a lot of question marks in their bullpen and are looking for some players to step up. Whelan has shown he has the potential to be one of those players, but he just needs to put it all together and get the results.

Spencer Impellizzeri is a MLB writer covering the Detroit Tigers for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Spence_I or on Google +.

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