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Rick Porcello has seniority. Drew Smyly has the more recent results, as well as better projections. One of them will be in the Tigers' rotation. Who'll win the battle?
Will it be Rick Porcello or Drew Smyly? We've asked and answered that same question seemingly dozens of times this offseason. We've reached the point where the rubber hits the road.
The answer to this one seems like an obvious "Rick Porcello" based on seniority and collective bargaining minutiae that makes it much smarter to keep Porcello in Detroit and left-hander Drew Smyly in Toledo. Porcello's always on the verge of breaking out and becoming the pitcher he was hyped to be, and his advanced metrics indicate he's going in the right direction.
Meanwhile having Smyly in Toledo (rather than relieving in Detroit) makes for a great backup in case something goes wrong with one of the Tigers' starters. Statistically speaking, pretty much every rotation in baseball needs that sixth starter at some point. The Tigers are in great position because of this competition.
But it is a competition. Manager Jim Leyland, though remaining low-key about it according to an article at the Detroit News, said, "We know we have two guys capable of starting in the big leagues. One of them is going to start for sure. But I'm going to wait and see and let it play out."
That's really all we can do, too, at this point.
Echoing a caution from the manager though: Don't try to keep score after every appearance. This one's going to go deep into the night and the decision may have no correlation to spring training stats. And that's fine, too.
The Tigers just have to do what's right in the big picture, whatever that may be.