Before the Detroit Tigers shocked the baseball world and acquired 2012 AL Cy Young award winner David Price, it was widely believed that Drew Smyly would be moved to the bullpen during the postseason if and when the Tigers got there. However, now that the Tigers have Price in the mix and Smyly is donning a Tampa Bay Rays jersey, someone else will have to move to the bullpen.
Therefore, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus may be presented with a very, very tough decision to make.
One might be inclined to believe that the only two locks to make the postseason rotation at this point are Price and Max Scherzer. Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello could all perhaps be in danger of moving to the bullpen.
Sanchez should, however, have a pretty good chance to get in if he continues to pitch like he has. Verlander’s history of postseason dominance, particularly in the past two seasons, will still most likely be taken into consideration as well. Verlander may currently be having the worst season of any starter on the Tigers’ staff, but it would still seem odd to see the Tigers demote him to bullpen duty given everything he has done in a Tigers uniform.
Thus, if one absolutely had to guess who the odd man out will be at this particular point in time, the choice would most likely have to be Porcello, which seems wildly unfair given that he is 13-5 with a 3.18 ERA right now. That being said, there is still plenty that could change between now and Oct. 1.
For example, if Verlander continues to be a .500-ish pitcher with an ERA at or above the 4.50 mark but Porcello goes on to win 20 games, then what will happen? Could the Tigers really still give a rotation spot to Verlander, but not a 20-game winner in Porcello? Would Verlander even be effective out of the bullpen if the Tigers were to move him there?
Only time will tell how this will shake out. Although a tough decision will undoubtedly have to be made, there are certainly worse problems to have. One would have to believe that Ausmus will do whatever he believes will give his team the best chance to win.