Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
When taking a high level view, it's easy to make a case that Drew Smyly and his sparkling 1.25 ERA (and 1.54 FIP) are deserving of a spot in the rotation, and it would be hard to argue that case, in a vacuum. It would appear to be even easier to make the case when you contrast that with Rick Porcello and his 7.52 ERA, even when adjusted for luck and defense, results in him posting a 4.87 FIP. However, with Phil Coke still on the shelf with the groin strain and Darin Downs having a few hiccups, removing Smyly from the bullpen deprives the Tigers of their best left-handed reliever, a role that manager Jim Leyland covets in the back end of his bullpen. Given that, for now anyway, the Tigers should hold steady with their current group and see how the next month plays out. If Porcello continues to steady himself as a reliable fifth starter (4.05 ERA since the Anaheim debacle), then there's no need to push Smyly out of that setup man/lefty specialist/multi-inning role he's filling right now. But this is a situation that is worth close monitoring and should be re-visited in a few weeks again, as the Tigers simply can't sacrifice games every fifth day just to have a better left-handed reliever available for the other days.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
Bottom line, I would not make that move right now. Aside from a disastrous outing against the Angels where he allowed nine runs amidst a host of fluky hits, Porcello has actually pitched reasonably well; not great, but certainly suitable for the fifth spot in the rotation. On the flip side, Drew Smyly has been flat out fantastic in relief, helping hold together a bullpen that has had it's share of struggles. With Phil Coke on the shelf, the Tigers have Smyly and Darin Downs as their two lefties in the bullpen and Smyly is arguably the most versatile reliever on the squad right now. He has demonstrated an ability to handle multiple innings, pitch to both lefties and righties, and get hot in a hurry to come in and put out a fire. That is an extremely valuable commodity in the bullpen and he has taken quickly to the role. There is no guarantee that Porcello can provide the same type of relief work that Smyly has and while Porcello is at least pitching at a passable level, I don't think the club should make a change. The Tigers are in first place right now and really appear to be clicking. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Matt Buck, Staff Writer
This must be prefaced by saying that Rick Porcello could still pan out to be a very solid pitcher. At 24 years old he probably hasn't hit his ceiling yet. That being said, Porcello is having a lackluster year and Drew Smyly has been impressive coming out of the bullpen. Most of Porcello's key numbers are worse than his career averages while Smyly is improving on his career averages. On top of that, Smyly gives the rotation the versatility of a lefty. Moving Smyly into the rotation feels like a low-risk move because of the low bar that Porcello has set for the fifth spot in the rotation this season and the lefty is due for an opportunity with the way he's performed out of the bullpen.
James Chipman, Lakeland Correspondent
Drew Smyly has been a pleasant surprise and a big boost to the Tigers bullpen this season. Smyly boasts a sparkling 1.35 ERA over twenty innings this season and he hasn’t allowed a single run since April 12th--a span of over thirteen innings. He’s limiting his walks and striking out over a batter an inning. More importantly, with Phil Coke and Octavia Dote on the DL, Smyly has shown that he can pitch effectively in a variety of different roles, including the later innings. On the other end of the spectrum, Rick Porcello struggled mightily in the month of April. However, the 24-year-old right-hander has improved over the past couple weeks, quietly logging back-to-back quality starts. Porcello is finally starting to miss bats at a solid clip and he’s allowed less than one base runner per inning over his past two starts. While it may only be two starts, it's enough for me to loosen the leash a tad. I grasp the concept that Smyly might have more success in the rotation than Porcello. However, swapping Porcello and Smyly right now makes absolutely zero sense to me. Adding Smyly to the rotation could very well be subtracting a key piece to a Tigers bullpen that’s still defining its roles.
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