Immediately after yesterday's win in Baltimore, the Tigers made the roster move we knew they'd make, bringing up Zach Miner from Toledo to start tonight's opener in Kansas City. Miner handed off his Mud Hen baton to Jeff Larish, who goes back down to Triple-A after a rather impressive return to Detroit.
At first glance, the hope would seem to be that Miner could fill the fifth starter role long-term. Or at least until Dontrelle Willis proves he's ready to pitch in the majors again. However, in today's Detroit News, Jim Leyland said that he still envisions Miner as a reliever. Why? Because of that sinker ball.
"With that pitch, I thought of him as someone to bring into the sixth or seventh inning to get a ground ball and get us out of an inning," Leyland said. "I still think that.
"He has two good pitches, and a third one that's OK," he said. "If the third one (his change-up) gets better, he can be a starter. But I thought he could be a good reliever for us, and I still think he could be.
"I like having a guy in the bullpen with a good sinker. But we'll see how he does (as a starter)."
Miner was presumably starting in Toledo to give him more opportunity to refine that change-up. We'll see tonight how that's developed for him. Regardless, he helps the Tigers more as a starting pitcher right now, as it's the greater need. If Willis returns, Fernando Rodney is included in a deal, or Miner fumbles his audition for the rotation, then that role will obviously be re-evaluated.
As a starter, Miner has a 7-7 record and 5.08 ERA in 17 appearances (85 innings). As a reliever, he's 6-6 with a 3.47 ERA in 76 games (106 1/3 innings). Miner last started a game for the Tigers in May of 2007, when he gave up two runs (one earned) and six hits in 5 1/3 innings at Fenway Park.