Robbie Ray's Inexperience, Inconsistency Could Put Detroit Tigers In A Tight Spot

By Brad Faber
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This afternoon, the Detroit Tigers called upon 22-year-old Robbie Ray to make a start in place of Justin Verlander in the final game of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners. Ray wasn’t exactly at the top of his game, going five innings, allowing seven hits, three earned runs, two walks and recording just one strikeout. The Tigers would ultimately drop the contest by a score of 8-1.

Ray, who was widely considered to be the centerpiece in the Doug Fister trade, is now 1-3 with a 5.33 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. At Ray’s age, there is still plenty of time for him to improve and make the trade worth it. However, at this particular moment, many fans are wondering why the Tigers ever got rid of Fister, who is currently sporting a 12-3 record and a 2.34 ERA for the Washington Nationals.

Ray’s struggles are particularly troublesome due to the fact that the Tigers currently have reigning AL ERA champion Anibal Sanchez on the DL, and Verlander’s status continues to remain a bit unclear as well. Yes, the Tigers still have Max Scherzer, David Price and Rick Porcello in their rotation, but they now find themselves in danger of missing the postseason. Therefore, going forward, they will absolutely need to get contributions from their No. 4 and No. 5 starters if they wish to avoid missing out on October baseball.

The original timetable for Sanchez’s return was 3-4 weeks, and if Ray cannot do a serviceable job in his place, the Tigers are simply going to need to find someone who can. The problem, however, is that right now their options are rather slim.

Last week, the Tigers called upon 23-year-old Buck Farmer to make a spot start. Farmer would go five innings, allowing six hits, four earned runs and one walk while recording six strikeouts, and he has since been sent to Triple-A Toledo. Last month, the Tigers called up another 23-year-old in Drew VerHagen to make a spot start, but he was quickly sent down to Toledo as well and placed on the seven-day DL where he remains.

The Tigers have many quality young arms at their lower minor league levels, but most of them are probably not ready to be thrust into the major leagues yet — let alone a playoff race.

Ray could still turn it around, but who do the Tigers turn to if he does not? Do they bring Farmer back up? It is a tough question and there is no easy answer to it. One other possible solution might have been to take a chance on Duane Below, who has gone 8-5 with a 3.73 in 21 starts for Toledo, but he is on the DL as well.

Things have quickly begun to go south for the Tigers in the month of August. The situation will only get worse if it turns out that Verlander needs to go on the DL. Although some questioned whether acquiring Price was the move the Tigers needed at the time, it is beginning to like it is a very good thing they made the deal for him.

Brad Faber is a Detroit Tigers writer for Follow him on Twitter @Brad_Faber, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on LinkedIn or Google.

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