Andrew Oliver had to show the Tigers he was ready to hold the fifth spot in the rotation. For two spring training appearances (or three if you want to include Florida Southern; I don't) he made a terrific case to almost everyone the spot was his to lose. Then, he lost it.
Detroit optioned Oliver to Triple-A Toledo this afternoon.
Oliver's spring training line (thanks to TigerDog1 for sending it to me just now):
15.2 IP, 11 H, 9 ER, 1 HR, 10 BB, 10 K, .193 Avg, 1.34 WHIP, 5.17 ERA
That leaves left-hander Duane Below of Britton, Mich., competing with left-hander Drew Smyly.
It's an interesting contrast. Below's pitches aren't as strong, but he's got much more professional experience than his competitor, including time on the mound in the MLB. (Plus he's a local-boy-done-good, you always have to enjoy that story.) Smyly may not have the ceiling of ace pitcher either, but I think many agree he's got better stuff than Below. However, he's also got just one year of professional experience under his belt.
Who will it be? Who knows.
Again, their spring training stats, although I think this decision is going to be based on much more than that:
Smyly: 12.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 10 K, .167 Avg, 0.94 WHIP, 2.85 ERA
Below: 12.1 IP, 16 H, 6 ER, 2 HR, 6 BB, 8 K, 3.02 Avg, 1.78 WHIP, 4.38 ERA
I still think it's going to be Below. I give that maybe 66-75% chances at this point. But we'll have to wait and see how things turn out.