The Detroit Tigers will use Monday’s off day to juggle their starting rotation a bit... we think. According to MLB.com, Matthew Boyd is scheduled to take the mound for the Tigers on Tuesday against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Michael Fulmer will follow him, pitching on Wednesday afternoon against Royals ace Danny Duffy.
Normally, this wouldn’t mean much. However, this schedule skips lefthander Francisco Liriano, who would have started on Tuesday with Boyd going Wednesday. Liriano has been awful lately, with a 6.88 ERA in August. The Tigers have lost each of his last four starts, and are just 2-9 in his 11 appearances since he came off the disabled list in late June.
Liriano is a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, but his poor performance has all but killed any trade interest in the veteran lefthander. He has pitched 102 2⁄3 innings for the Tigers this season, but his role might be uncertain as we move closer to September, when active rosters expand.
What will probably happen
Sadly, this roster maneuvering probably means nothing. Boyd and Fulmer are the Tigers’ two best starters, and manager Ron Gardenhire probably just wants to keep them (Fulmer, in particular) on a five-day schedule. Moving Fulmer away from a dangerous New York Yankees lineup on Thursday evening is also a nice perk as he continues to rehab from his oblique injury. The Tigers will then likely use some combination of Ryan Carpenter, Jordan Zimmermann, and Liriano in the first three games of the Yankees series before Boyd takes his regular turn in the rotation in Sunday’s series finale.
What we hope will happen
In a word, anything else.
With just one month remaining in the season and only four days left until rosters expand, Liriano is no longer “eating innings,” especially given his poor performance of late. If anything, he is getting in the way of other players who have a chance of sticking around through the end of Detroit’s rebuild. We have been on the Matt Hall bandwagon for a little while now, but the Tigers have several players who could slide into the rotation for a big league audition. Blaine Hardy and Daniel Norris are close to returning from injury, while Hall and former second round pick Spencer Turnbull are possible September call-ups. Turnbull was just promoted to Triple-A Toledo after a nice run over the past month in Erie, and Hall has a 2.28 ERA with over a strikeout per inning in eight starts for the Mud Hens.
What happens with Liriano is irrelevant. The team likely won’t release him at this point, but moving him into a mop-up role in the bullpen would give them a chance to view younger players in a starting role while still having an “innings eater” around to clean up any messes that occur. They could also trade Liriano, though it’s unlikely they receive anything other than cash considerations this late in the trade cycle. Any team looking to use Liriano on their playoff roster — which seems like a bad idea, but I’m not judging — would have to acquire him before September 1.