However, there was a small question mark for the fifth slot in that rotation. Drew Smyly is the probable option for rounding out the rotation, but anything can happen in Spring Training; if he had a horrible preseason, the Tigers would have either had him on a very short leash for the start of the 2014 season or yank him from the rotation altogether.
Smyly was able to solidify his position with a quality showing against the New York Mets as he allowed no runs, three hits and a walk while striking out three over three innings of work. He was not dominant, but he was certainly good enough to establish himself as the front-runner for the Tigers’ No. 5 starter job.
The biggest advantage for Smyly moving forward is that it is his position in the rotation to lose. If he continues to have solid showings, that will keep him in the fifth spot for the Tigers. He does not have to have Cy Young-caliber performances because he does not have to be the ace of the staff. By being a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, Smyly will see be facing the weaker pitchers of opposing teams, and the 24-year old will have to deal with much less pressure in comparison to Verlander or Scherzer.
Smyly did not make a single start in the majors last year, but he was extremely effective from the bullpen, going 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA. Sometimes pitchers struggle with the transition from relief pitcher to starter, but as long as Smyly can make starts similar to the one today, he should have no problem grabbing that fifth spot in the Tigers’ rotation.