Leyland believes fifth starter will come in-house

Leyland believes fifth starter will come in-house

Leyland believes fifth starter will come in-house
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers are far from drawing conclusions on their fifth starter. They seem to have reached the conclusion, though, that their fifth starter is already at camp.

While the Tigers are like many other big league clubs needing to fill out a rotation spot, the fact that they have six candidates -- none of them with more than half a season in the big leagues -- makes them a rarity. So far, however, manager Jim Leyland likes what he sees.

More than anything, Leyland likes talent. And he sees enough talent to believe they have a Major League ready starter in camp that can fill the role right now. In fact, Leyland says, they might have more than one.

"We truly believe that we've got the guy," Leyland said. "Who it is, I don't know."

On Saturday, Jacob Turner became the first of the candidates to face Major League competition in a game, tossing a perfect inning against the Braves in relief of Doug Fister. Leyland said before the game that Turner will get the start Wednesday against the Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Leyland did not say who would follow Turner in a game he already said would be a "piggyback start," with the reliever stretching out for roughly the same work as the starter. Andy Oliver, Casey Crosby and Drew Smyly all pitched Friday against Florida Southern and could pitch on turn Wednesday.

Other candidates include Duane Below and Adam Wilk, both of whom spent time with the Tigers last season.

"To be honest," Leyland said, "I think we've got four for sure, maybe five that can do it."

Below and Wilk, and maybe others, could compete to fill the one bullpen void if they don't win the starter's role.

Leyland has said more than once that it would be a positive message -- both for Tigers Minor Leaguers and the organization's amateur scouts -- if they could go with one of their in-house candidates for the lone rotation opening. It also could help the Tigers better manage a payroll that neared $130 million with the Prince Fielder signing.

Leyland didn't eliminate the possibility of a trade for a starter. But if they swing one, it had better be good.

"If we go outside [the organization], it's going to have to be [for] somebody better than what we have here," Leyland said.

The other, lesser-noted scenario is that the Tigers come out of camp with a starting-pitching surplus. It probably wouldn't set up a trade out of camp, but it could create a stacked rotation at Triple-A Toledo for April and some potential trade pieces over the summer if they need an upgrade somewhere.

Deal or no deal, it would give the Tigers currency with one of the most expensive positions on the market.