Tigers looking at fifth-starter options

Tigers looking at fifth-starter options

Tigers looking at fifth-starter options
DALLAS -- The Tigers want to buy time for their top pitching prospects. They're not looking to run out the clock.

They are indeed looking for a starting pitcher as the Winter Meetings heat up at the Hilton Anatole hotel. But as team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski cautioned, they're looking for a fifth starter, not another front to their rotation.

They'd like to keep their options open on their rotation beyond 2012. Moreover, Dombrowski is leaving the opportunity open for Jacob Turner or another young arm to win the job.

That does not equate into an all-out pursuit of C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle, though it could create a chance for a strong arm with little time left on his contract. It means a rotation tweak, rather than a rotation shift.

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"You're open to being in a position where you listen to anything," Dombrowski cautioned, "but we think if we have our four starters that are established, that we would go in with a young guy as our fifth starter. We've said that all along, really. We've said we're open-minded to things, but no, we're very happy to go in with one. We think we might have more than one that might be able to step up. ...

"Now, when I say that, you're looking for them to be your fifth starter. You're not looking for him to be your first starter. But we feel comfortable to do that. Now, what we have talked about is potentially signing a veteran-type guy that could protect us, that could also slide into the bullpen."

That would not fit the stature of Buehrle, the longtime Tigers tormentor who hit free agency this fall after 12 seasons with the White Sox. It would also not fit Wilson, who went from Rangers closer to ace over the last two years before becoming the most prominent free-agent starter on this year's market.

When asked about the possibility of a long-term deal, Dombrowski said, "Well, I'd say that most likely we would not be heading in that direction. ... That's really not the focus we have."

FOXSports.com reported Monday that the Tigers are not involved in talks on Buehrle, who reportedly has 14 teams interested in his services. Other teams have noted the Tigers looking for starting pitching on the trade market.

Turner made three spot starts for the Tigers this past season, allowing 12 runs on 17 hits over 12 2/3 innings. Much of that damage came in two September outings, after the Tigers had taken him out of a regular starting routine to save the wear and tear on his arm. Though the 20-year-old right-hander went 4-5 with a 3.44 ERA between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, he made the MLB All-Star Futures Game in July and ranked near the top of many prospect lists at season's end.

He's the most logical candidate for the Tigers, but he isn't the only one Dombrowski mentioned.

"We feel between Turner, [Drew] Smyly, [Andy] Oliver, [Adam] Wilk [and Duane] Below, we think one of those guys will step up and do a solid job for us as a fifth starter. And there's probably somebody else that may not be a household name. Or maybe there's a small guy that we do acquire in a smaller fashion. But we feel that we have enough candidates that somebody can step up and do that for us."