DETROIT -- The question of who will take Doug Fister's spot in the Tigers' rotation appeared just as difficult to answer Sunday morning as the question of how long Fister will be out with his left side strain.
"I have no clue who's going to start, absolutely none," manager Jim Leyland said before Sunday's series finale against the Red Sox. "[Brayan] Villarreal has joined the team and we will have a starter at the appropriate time. Who it is, I have no clue. None."
Duane Below replaced Fister in relief Saturday and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his first Major League win, then earned another victory in Sunday's comeback. He was the runner-up in Detroit's fifth-starter competition that ended a week ago and would seemingly be the logical candidate.
At this point, Leyland is keeping his options open.
The organization will spend the next two days watching starters at Triple-A Toledo, Leyland said. Somebody from the club watched Andy Oliver pitch for the Mud Hens Sunday night, and Leyland said he might spend the off-day Monday in Toledo to watch Casey Crosby start. Oliver looked like the front-runner for the fifth-starter job midway through Spring Training until he battled control problems in back-to-back starts, issues that seemed to surface again in five walks over 3 2/3 innings Sunday night.
The Tigers also don't appear to be closing off the trade route. Yet if they liked their in-house candidates over their trade options entering the final weeks camp, they might not feel much differently now. Detroit spent much of Spring Training monitoring Nationals starter John Lannan, who has since ended up in Triple-A and has publicly asked for a trade. Just because Lannan wants a trade, though, doesn't mean the Nats will give him away or eat a good chunk of his $5 million salary to deal him.
With Monday's off-day, the Tigers have the option of moving up Max Scherzer to start in Fister's place Friday instead of Saturday. Given that Friday is the White Sox home opener, having Scherzer pitch that day could be an option. If Detroit does that, though, it won't have Scherzer for the four-game series against Texas at Comerica Park from April 19-22.
As for a timetable on Fister, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, "Not right now. We've just got to get him pain free. Once we get him pain free, then we can move forward."
Fister agreed, saying he's still dealing with tightness and soreness in his left side.