Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
A prudent argument would be to give the current group time to figure things out - but that prudent argument would be ignoring more than a month of spring training struggles, along with, in some cases, issues throughout 2013. The reality is that outside of Joe Nathan, and even he has stumbled out of the gate, no one has emerged to take on a key role in the bullpen. And like it or not, but with a lineup that doesn't pack the same power punch as it did a year ago, this team is going to have to win more close games, and that means holding leads late, and this bullpen isn't equipped to do that. Waiting for Corey Knebel or Melvin Mercedes could be a strategy, or hoping Al Alburquerque figures things out could be a path, but the reality is that it's highly unusual that a leopard will change its spots (Ed Note: previously said stripes as opposed to spots - updated to be the proper idiom), and it's unlikely a rookie with limited upper-level minor league experience can emerge as a shutdown setup man. And the longer the Tigers wait to make a move, the more games they're likely to lose, solely because of the weak bullpen. If I were Dave Dombrowski, I'd be cutting Phil Coke tomorrow and looking to sign a veteran free agent like Joel Hanrahan, or possibly Kevin Gregg and Frank Francisco. All three of the options aren't great, and the Tigers will need to continue to search even after that move, but it's a start, and quite frankly, the Tigers have a lot of work to do on this bullpen, and they have to start somewhere.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
I have a hard time convincing myself that the Tigers truly need to make a move just a handful of games into the season. The club really needs to exercise a little patience. Joe Nathan should be solid enough at the end of games, and the need to give their other a pieces a chance to settle into roles for new manager Brad Ausmus. In addition, the Tigers need to allow Jose Ortega, Will Clinard, Melvin Mercedes, and other minor leagues to polish some rough edges and possibly be in line to help fill gaps over the next two to three months. In the end, the Tigers are going to need to make a move, but that move isn't clearly defined as of yet. If arms like Krol, Alburquerque, and Chamberlain don't settle into high leverage roles, then they need to make a more substantial move, but if they do, then that move may be more on the minor side in the 6th or 7th inning. For now though, patience must be exercised to avoid rash decisions and costly moves.
James Chipman, Senior Lakeland Correspondent
In short: tread water. Unfortunately, there's really not much the Tigers can do immediately to remedy the situation. We're talking about a week's worth of data and I don't foresee any major reconstruction taking place based on a sample size that small. I wouldn't rush prospects, nor would I panic and make a crazy trade. Regardless, the sketchy bullpen is a valid concern; and something eventually should happen to rectify the situation. Aside from waiting around for relief prospects Melvin Mercedes and Corey Knebel, who both very well could see time at some point this later this season, the Tigers do have an internal option in Jose Ortega. The right-hander had some success in brief stints with the major league club in each of the past two seasons and is arguably worth a look. Another outside the box approach would be to check in with free-agent closer Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan, whose 2013 season was ended due to Tommy John surgery, is slated to begin showcasing for teams within the next couple weeks. He's said to be healthy, "almost" ready to contribute and the velocity has reportedly returned. Provided the medicals check out, the 32-year-old could be a huge low risk, high reward flyer. So if it's me in charge of making a move, I'm heading to Hanrahan's training facility in Tampa to keep close tabs.
Nick Shlain, Staff Writer
What to do with the Tigers bullpen? Is build a time machine and pick up Jose Veras' option an option? No? Well, I guess we could send Phil Coke packing. That would help immediately in an addition by subtraction sort of way. Beyond that there isn't much he Tigers can do before June as most teams don't trade in the first two months of the season and there won't be teams lining up to help the tigers this early. It's likely they let some of their young arms in the minors have a chance before a trade comes together.
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