Tigers go for 'pen arm in 9th round with Laxer

Tigers go for 'pen arm in 9th round with Laxer

Though Detroit has some decisions to make whether some early-round pitching selections fit best as starters or relievers, ninth-rounder Josh Laxer won't have that conflict. After struggling for first two seasons as a starting pitcher at the University of Mississippi, he found his calling as a closer. His fastball, which hits the mid-90s, might not ticket him for the ninth inning, but it plays well in short, high-energy bursts.

Laxer allowed five earned runs on 27 hits over 30 2/3 innings this spring, walking nine and striking out 37. His five saves led an Ole Miss team that used a closer-by-committee system.

Laxer complements his fastball with a breaking ball, giving him a two-pitch arsenal. It's not enough to start, but it can work out of the bullpen. He'll have a chance at more work this weekend, when the Rebels take part in the NCAA Super Regionals against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Laxer will try to follow in the footsteps of Corey Knebel, who went from University of Texas closer to the Tigers' bullpen within a year. Laxer's ascension isn't expected to be nearly that fast, and it could take time for him to hone the command to work in a late-inning role in pro ball. Still, the tools for a reliever are there.

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 1 p.m. ET.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.