Dave Dombrowski sees six Tigers in mix for fifth starter spot
By Tom Gage
The Detroit News
Detroit — If a right-hander wins the Tigers' fifth starting spot, it's hardly a surprise that it could be Jacob Turner.
But if a lefty emerges, it could be Drew Smyly — because there are those within the Tigers' organization who've told president and general manager Dave Dombrowski that the 22-year-old non-roster invitee — despite just one year of professional experience — is already capable of pitching in the majors.
And with the Tigers' No. 5 starting spot open, Smyly will get an opportunity to do so this spring.
But so will several others — which leads to this question: Just how many pitchers will be given a chance at spring training to win the Tigers' No. 5 starting spot?
"There's probably five or six guys who'd potentially have a chance," Dombrowski said at a Detroit Sports Broadcasters luncheon Tuesday.
In addition to Turner and Smyly, Dombrowski listed left-handers Casey Crosby, Andrew Oliver, Duane Below and Adam Wilk.
"I feel comfortable if Below or Wilk were the No. 5 starter that they could do a job for us out there," Dombrowski said. "But unless something really surprises me, they don't have the overall upside of a Jacob Turner — who I'm not really sure is ready or not.
"I don't know if we'll know that until we get down there (to Florida) and see him perform and see some of those other guys perform," Dombrowski said.
"First of all, (Turner) has quality stuff and is going to be a tremendous big-league pitcher. I don't have a question about that. This guy is really good.
"But last year, if you were watching us at the big-league level, you would have said, 'There's no way this guy could be ready.'"
That was last year, though.
"I've seen guys who get a cup of coffee at the big-league level, for whom the game moved real fast," Dombrowski said, "and they come back and pitch very well. But I'm interested in seeing where some of those young guys are in their development, and whether they can step forward to do the job.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see Crosby keep taking a step forward. But one guy I'm interested in seeing, because I've not seen much of him, is Smyly.
Dombrowski said that while Smyly has been in the Tigers organization only one year, "there are some people in our minor-league system, and I don't know if they're right or wrong, but they feel he's ready to pitch in the big leagues right now."
As for the bullpen, Dombrowski all but filled in the next-to-last bullpen spot by saying about right-hander Collin Ballester, whom the Tigers acquired from Washington for Ryan Perry, "We look for him to be on the club."
He added: "He can pitch multiple innings. We like him a lot. He's out of options, but when we made the deal, we did so with the idea he was going to be on our club.
"He has to earn it, but the feelings are that he will."
By also including Daniel Schlereth "as a leading candidate" to earn one of the lefty roles, only one bullpen spot could be "a wide open battle," said Dombrowski.