Hey, all you BYBers. It's been a long time. I'm sure nobody missed me. I've been pretty absent this offseason, but I'm looking forward to hanging around with all of you again through the spring, summer, and fall.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the bullpen lately. It’s, like, super different this year, yeah? Joaquin Benoit is gone. Jose Veras’ short stint is over. Drew Smyly is now in the rotation where he rightfully belongs. There is no Jose Valverde to worry about. Instead, the Tigers have Joe Nathan to close things out. They signed Joba Chamberlain. They traded for Ian Krol. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. But what does it all mean, you guys?
Well, one thing is certain: Joe Nathan is the closer. After that, though, there are more question marks than people have been acting like. Rondon in the 8th, right? I mean, probably, but who knows? Same for Phil Coke. Jim Leyland isn’t pulling the strings anymore, and the names we might expect in the ‘pen are not set in stone. Too much uncertainty! What’s a guy to do?
Well, I’ll tell you what this guy is going to do. He is going to speculate. He is going to speculate, and he is going to stop referring to himself in the third person starting… right…NOW.
Here’s what I’m thinking. The bullpen will have seven spots. These are the guys I expect to see fill them on March 31st:
He is the closer. It’s a done deal. We don’t need to say anything else about him — his career numbers speak for themselves.
Assuming he breaks camp healthy and without having an allergic reaction to the palm tree pollen (which is definitely a thing…don’t look it up), Rondon is likely to be the set-up man for Nathan.
Nastiest arm in the ‘pen, for sure. I like Al-Al in the seventh, and occasionally in the eighth if Rondon is unavailable. If you want my honest opinion, which you obviously do if you’re reading this, I think a healthy Alburquerque is good enough to be a closer, eventually.
Joba should mostly split time with Alburquerque in the seventh. I know a lot of people are sort of unenthused about the Chamberlain signing, but I’m actually a big fan of it. This is a Billy Beane type move: take a guy with lots of talent who hasn’t lived up to expectations, put him in a new situation with less pressure, and see what happens. Chamberlain seems to be genuinely excited about being in Detroit. I mean, his friggin' elbow is smiling.
Dude was a strikeout machine in the Nationals’ minor league system before breaking in with the Nats last season. He appeared in 32 games for Washington and pitched to a strikeout rate of 7.24 K/9. I expect to see him as a lefty-specialist, though I think he’s fully capable of facing three or four batters if called upon to do so.
Resident Nickelback fan Phil Coke should be back in the ‘pen this year, even though I’m not convinced he deserves to be. I don’t really ever want to see Phil any later than the seventh inning. He does have the ability to eat some innings if it hits the fan early for a starter, but he also has the ability to give up a buttoad of runs, as his 5.40 ERA and 4.93 BB/9 last year would suggest.
LuPu was dependable if not remarkable last season, and offers an insurance policy if Ausmus needs his ‘pen to enter a game early. Like with Coke, I expect to see Putkonen mostly in the sixth or seventh. Unlike with Coke, however, I wouldn’t have a problem with Putkonen entering a game later in the seventh or even in the eighth every once in a while if the situation calls for it.
There are a few dudes who are on the bubble as well. Casey Crosby will probably make an appearance in the bullpen at some point this season, though I doubt it will be coming out of Spring Training. Jose Ortega was real nasty last year, but struggled with his command. Evan Reed saw time with the Tigers last year, but is out of options. Jose Alvarez could contribute out of the ‘pen, but is more likely to remain a starter in Toledo and a potential call-up in case of injury. Even Kyle Lobstein could show his face at some point.
Which of these players won’t make the team on Opening Day? Which player in Lakeland that I didn’t mention has a chance to make the team? Leave your thoughts in the comments.