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MLB Opening Day 2016: Logan Kensing earns the final spot in the Tigers' bullpen

The long-time journeyman will start the year in the majors for the first time since 2009.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The dust has cleared, and the final roster decision made. With a solid spring training campaign, non-roster invitee Logan Kensing has secured the last spot in the Detroit Tigers' bullpen for Opening Day. You could have gotten nice odds against that possibility six weeks ago.

The 33-year old righthander made nine appearances in spring training, compiling a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings of work. While he only struck out five batters in that span, he issued just one walk. His chief competition for the final spot, Lendy Castillo, allowed a pair of runs on Friday while Kensing tossed a pair of scoreless innings, earning the nod from Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.

While Kensing's opportunity is mainly the result of injuries to relievers Blaine Hardy and Alex Wilson, he will have a chance to stick around a while. Neither Kyle Ryan nor Buck Farmer, both of whom will also start the year in the Tigers' bullpen, have any real major league success to speak of either. Hardy has no concrete timetable for return, while Wilson is a bit closer. Both Bobby Parnell and Bruce Rondon are choices the Tigers would have preferred, but were unable to show any consistent effectiveness.

However, Kensing's long history of injury and mediocrity make it difficult to hope for much.

Recent Career Numbers

Year IP ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB% BABIP
2014 Mariners (AAA) 88.0 3.58 3.84 8.08 3.38 0.51 - .310
2015 Mariners (AAA) 32.1 2.23 3.57 6.96 2.78 0.28 - .289
2015 Mariners 15.1 5.87 4.50 7.63 4.11 1.17 39.5 .238

Kensing was originally drafted in the second round by the Florida Marlins in 2003 out of Texas A&M University. As a college reliever, he was hurried to the major leagues the next year. From the beginning, he struggled to fulfill his early promise. A pair of short stints with the Marlins in 2004 and 2005 were disastrous, though in just a combined 19 2/3 innings.

Kensing found a strikeout groove in the following years, with a 110 ERA+ over the next three seasons. However, he could never harness his command, issuing too many free passes and home runs to be effective. His best year came in 2008, when he posted a 4.23 ERA for the Marlins in 55 1/3 innings. Even then, he put up a ghastly walk rate of 5.37 per nine innings.

Injury History

Kensing came out of college highly regarded as a hard-thrower. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2006, but rebounded reasonably well two years later. Unfortunately, his career started to unravel in 2009. After being designated for assignment by the Marlins, he was traded to the Washington Nationals, where he fared no better. The Tampa Bay Rays signed him to a minor league contract before the 2010 season, but Kensing never made an appearance, undergoing consecutive shoulder surgeries that year.

Since then, he has bounced all around baseball, from the Yankees to the Pirates and Rockies, and then to the Mariners in 2014. Kensing rarely saw major league action during this stretch. He put together a solid season at Triple-A for the Mariners in 2014 and continued it into the next season before earning a call-up in late August.

Kensing's stat line with the Mariners was ugly, mainly as the result of one appearance in which he surrendered four earned runs to the Chicago White Sox on August 29. Apart from that outing, he was a decent reliever over the final five weeks of the season. His strikeout-to-walk rate wasn't good, but he has shown glimpses of better command in recent years.

2016 Outlook

Kensing's flame-throwing days are long over. He throws both two- and four-seam fastballs, now resting at about 92 miles per hour. Neither pitch is notable for its movement. He has a decent slider, and he throws it almost exclusively among his secondary pitches. While Kensing gets a decent amount of strikeouts and ground balls, it's not enough to counteract his career-long issues. He gives up too many walks and too many home runs to be effective.

It's very likely that this is going to be another short stay in the majors for Kensing. Unless something has truly clicked for him in a big way, he just doesn't possess the stuff nor the command to get hitters out consistently at the major league level. While you can admire his persistence through injuries and long years in the wilderness, he's probably just a place holder until Alex Wilson returns to the club.