It’s time to talk about the bullpen, it seems. The Detroit Tigers sparked that conversation by announcing that right-handed prospect Kyle Funkhouser will transition into a bullpen role, a move that many of us saw coming with how much he has struggled to stay healthy over the past few years. Now entering his age-26 season, Funkhouser’s prospect status is on its last legs, and he is being chased by a bevy of younger, more promising, and, frankly, healthier arms.
Even before Funkhouser saw his role changed, the Tigers had a crowded ‘pen to sort through. MLive’s Evan Woodberry noted that there are as many as 14 pitchers competing for six open bullpen spots, with Buck Farmer and Joe Jimenez the only locks to be in Detroit on Opening Day.
Some of our commenters got the ball rolling in Friday’s links thread, but let’s continue it here.
Today’s question: Who makes the Tigers’ Opening Day bullpen?
My answer: I think Tyler Alexander is close to being a lock to make the Opening Day bullpen after a strong finish to the 2019 season. He’s one of just three left-handed relievers in camp, and the only one on the 40-man roster. Nick Ramirez also seems like a likely addition unless he absolutely implodes in spring training; he was one of Detroit’s most consistent relievers last year, and can fill a multi-inning role that will almost certainly come into play on days that Jordan Zimmermann and Ivan Nova take the mound.
That leaves four spots left, all of which will likely go to righties. Those on the 40-man already will have an edge over the non-roster invites, especially if the Tigers need to make room on the roster for Ramirez. Rony Garcia will likely make the team because he has to, though I wouldn’t put the Tigers to send him back to New York if he isn’t up to snuff down in Lakeland. I hope Jose Cisnero makes the cut as well, because he has the type of high octane stuff to rack up strikeouts in the later innings (he fanned 40 hitters in 35 1⁄3 frames last year). David McKay and John Schreiber are my last two picks, and I expect the latter to have a strong spring; hitters won’t want anything to do with that arm slot in March.