Look, pitching was always going to be a struggle for the Detroit Tigers this season. Even with some improvements, expectations for a staff that put up a collective 5.26 ERA in 2019 were modest at best going into this year, and that seems to track so far. If everyone stays healthy, the Tigers can feel decent about half of the time with their starters, but the other days are going to be an adventure.
With Michael Fulmer working himself back to full health, and Daniel Norris still not ready to go, Detroit was set to turn to Dario Agrazal to fill out the fifth spot in the rotation. However, Monday afternoon the former Pittsburgh Pirate was sent to the injured list with a forearm strain, leaving a need for Tuesday’s start.
As a result, the Tigers are set to go with an opener against the Royals and rely on the bullpen to pick up the bulk of the innings. Unless guys like Fulmer and Norris can get back to full health soon, do not be surprised to see Ron Gardenhire forced into this strategy a few more times over the first month of the season.
The logical candidate for a spot start is Tyler Alexander, who will almost certainly see some action Tuesday. Other options include Buck Farmer, Gregory Soto, Jose Cisnero, and Rony Garcia, who could each go multiple innings if needed. Long story short, if a reliever did not pitch Monday then there is a good chance they will make an appearance today.
Kansas City Royals (2-2) at Detroit Tigers (2-2)
The Royals have even more rotation issues than the Tigers right now. Both Brad Keller and Jakob Junis were expected to contribute as starters this year, but neither appears healthy enough yet to join the club. That meant calling up touted prospect Brady Singer to start the second game of the season and using a bullpen game in just the third contest of the year which saw eight different pitchers making an appearance.
Like the Tigers, it appears that Kansas City will be going this route again on Tuesday in Detroit. The number of pitchers slated to enter the game remains to be seen, but it will likely be fairly high again. On Sunday, opener Ronald Bolanos threw 32 pitches over two innings; no other Royal completed more than one frame. This seems like a reasonable model of what to expect from both sides tonight.
Key matchup: Tigers hitters vs. strikeouts
The Tigers led the majors in strikeouts last season (setting an MLB record) and look on track to finish near the top again. Against the Reds, Detroit hitters fanned 46 times over the three-game series, and the team struck out nine more times against Kansas City on Monday. In today’s game, strikeouts are becoming more and more frequent and do not necessarily doom an offense, but it can be pretty draining to see a team struggle this much. Hopefully contact improves today against a ragtag bunch of Royals relievers.