Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
While you never want a position battle sorted out due to an injury, this is clearly a huge step in that direction, as Turner being sidelined for at least a week will make it very difficult for him to come back and earn the job as we enter second half of spring training, with so few opportunities left to prove himself, and the Tigers likely remaining cautious with their prized arm - no need to rush him back when there are alternate candidates that can step up. While pitchers like Drew Smyly and Adam Wilk technically remain in the conversation, the battle in my mind comes down to two left-handers; Duane Below and Andy Oliver. Below has the experience and the make-up of a solid fifth starter - a lefty with a fastball that gets up over 90 mph and a solid breaking ball, he would help bring some balance to the rotation (currently all right-handers) and also has almost a full season of big league experience, which should make the transition less difficult. The other alternative is Andy Oliver, who has made a handful of big league starts over the past two years. A couple of tweaks to his delivery appear to have him controlling his fastball better, and early returns indicate they've substantially helped his slider. He doesn't have the experience or the track record of consistency that Below does, but Oliver is the sort of high-risk pitcher that could pay off huge dividends. Right now, I think Below leads by a hair, but another strong start from Oliver and things could change quickly.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
I feel quite comfortable saying that the tendinitis that has shut down Jacob Turner for the next week has all but eliminated him from serious contention for the fifth starter spot. It would take a rash of injuries or ineffectiveness along with Turner returning with a dominating couple of outings for this scenario to change before camp breaks. As a result, the door is wide open for several left-handers to head north with the big club, including Andy Oliver, Duane Below, Adam Wilk and Drew Smyly. Oliver has been impressive early in camp and must continue to show consistency with his command and secondary pitches to earn the spot. Below has been a bit more up and down but still has the potential to eat innings at the back of the rotation. Adam Wilk is probably a significant step behind in the race for the fifth starters spot. His stuff doesn't measure up with the rest of this quartet and that will matter if he is being asked to get big leaguers out every fifth day. Drew Smyly seems to be the pick of the fans of late, but I'm not sure his handful of starts in Double-A are enough to vault him from off the 40-man roster and into the rotation of a World Series contender. If I had to rank the contenders I would list Oliver and Below at the top, tied with an unknown candidate from outside the organization, Smyly a fairly distant second and Wilk not really in the picture at this juncture.
Newfy, Message Board Post of the Week
I think it's a good thing...it never bothers me too much when really young players have minor injuries that maybe force them to sit down for a few weeks and absorb some of the mental side of the game, and spend more time analyzing their own strengths/weaknesses with their coaches. I've always expected Turner to take the #5 spot coming into spring training, but hoped that one of the lefties would step up into the role to give the team some balance, and to give Turner some time to continue his maturation. At this point, if Oliver keeps throwing strikes, I don't see how the team leaves him behind - I'd ride him until he loses control, and then bring up Smyly, who I think we all see as the superior long-term prospect. I'm just a big fan of riding the hot hand in nearly every sport...can pay off significantly (ie. Shelton in 2006, Alburquerqe in 2011). And I'm not of the opinion that there's no such thing as a pitching prospect...it's sexy, but Halladay wasn't controlling five different pitches as a 21 year old.
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