Given how Zach Miner had pitched this spring (up until yesterday, that is), it was likely already a foregone conclusion that he wouldn't win that fifth spot in the Detroit Tigers' starting rotation. Jim Leyland always seemed to like him in the bullpen anyway, so Miner would've had to knock his socks off to disavow him of that notion.
As we know, that hasn't happened. Miner has allowed 14 runs and 26 hits in 16 innings (though on the plus side, he only issued four walks), never really giving himself a chance to be considered as a starter. And just in case we weren't sure of that, Leyland confirmed that before yesterday's game.
Maybe that's just what Miner needed to hear, as he threw three shutout innings against the New York Yankees soon thereafter. Perhaps knowing his role for certain relaxed him a little bit. And now that he knows, Miner needs to focus on pitching well in relief, as his place on the roster isn't entirely assured. (He can probably forget about being a set-up man, considering how well several relievers have pitched in Lakeland.)
That leaves Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis, and Rick Porcello to fight it out for that fifth starter's job. With seven shutout innings over his last two appearances, perhaps Robertson is now leading the competition. It certainly looks more like a two-man race, with the way Willis has pitched. (As Lee points out, the D-Train probably isn't going to refuse an assignment to the minors, lest he forfeit the hefty money still owed to him.)
Isn't it amazing how quickly things can change in a week? Two weeks ago, Porcello was all but guaranteed a job in the Tigers' starting rotation, if for no other reason than there wasn't much of a choice. But if one of the veteran candidates shows he's capable, you have to believe the preference (whether for financial or baseball reasons) is for Porcello to begin the season in the minors.
With two weeks remaining in Spring Training, however, the kid still has a chance. And the two veterans still need to prove they can beat him out.