LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matt Boyd has won a spot in the Tigers' rotation. Anibal Sanchez is in the Tigers' bullpen ... for now."He's going to, at this time, start in the bullpen," manager Brad Ausmus said.How that could change isn't clear, and Ausmus was not inclined to explain it. But
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matt Boyd has won a spot in the Tigers' rotation. Anibal Sanchez is in the Tigers' bullpen ... for now.
"He's going to, at this time, start in the bullpen," manager Brad Ausmus said.
How that could change isn't clear, and Ausmus was not inclined to explain it. But for now, the Tigers have five starting pitchers. They do not, however, have their rotation set.
"We've got a couple things going on right now," Ausmus said when asked about rotation order, "so I want to wait to give you that. ... It might be different than what I originally thought. [Justin Verlander] is starting Opening Day. [Michael Fulmer] and Verlander are the two you know. You'll have to wait a couple days for the rest.
"We'll talk about it when I'm able to talk about it."
That could portend to an injury or a potential trade. On the injury front, Daniel Norris played catch Tuesday without issue and was in the dugout Wednesday after battling dead arm in his rough start Monday night against the Braves, though the Tigers could wait a couple of days to make sure he's indeed healthy if they're at all concerned. Jordan Zimmermann battled neck issues for most of last season, but has no injury concerns right now, according to Ausmus. Fulmer tweaked his previously sprained right ankle in the first inning of his start Tuesday night, but went five innings and said he felt fine afterward.
As for a trade, the most logical possibilities would be Sanchez or Mike Pelfrey, both under guaranteed contracts this year and neither currently with a rotation spot.
Ausmus confirmed he told Sanchez about his bullpen assignment Tuesday. It was a tough fate for a veteran right-hander who turned around his spring when his career seemed in trouble midway through camp.
What looked early like an easy victory for Boyd in a three-way competition for the final spot became a very close race over the past couple of weeks. After a tough start to camp, Sanchez tweaked his delivery and posted 14 scoreless innings on two hits with 16 strikeouts over his past three outings, including six hitless innings against the Pirates on Saturday.
As good as Sanchez has pitched lately, however, he had tough competition in Boyd, who has posted a 21-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 21 2/3 innings this spring. The third-year lefty has allowed just two runs on 15 hits over 18 innings in his past four outings, striking out 18.
The expectation had been that if Boyd and Sanchez pitched close to even, the combination of Sanchez's contract -- including a $16.8 million salary guaranteed this season -- and Boyd's remaining Minor League option would likely serve as a tiebreaker. In theory, the Tigers could keep Sanchez and Pelfrey, who's guaranteed $8 million this season, while having Boyd in reserve as an in-season callup for injury or replacement. Detroit has emphasized the need to build pitching depth all spring, especially with starting pitchers.
At the same time, general manager Al Avila has emphasized that the Tigers need to get younger over the long term. Boyd, who turned 26 last month, has opened eyes with his performance ever since the stretch run last season. Multiple scouts following the club this spring have said they see Boyd with the potential to become a second or third starter.
The flip side is uncertainty over Pelfrey, signed last offseason to a two-year, $16 million deal. While the veteran right-hander could serve as starting depth, Ausmus said over the weekend that they probably can't find enough innings to carry two insurance starters in their bullpen.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.