Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
While the unexpected can always happen (an injury or a continuation from the fallout in the second half of 2008), I have every reason to expect Brandon Lyon to open the season as the Tigers' closer. Fernando Rodney, who is the closest thing the Tigers have to an "incumbent" will certainly be given an opportunity to compete, but barring a completely dominant showing from Rodney, Lyon is the odds-on favorite to "win" the job as the team heads north. Rodney (and possibly Joel Zumaya) will still get late-inning work, and possibly even the occasional appearance with a save on the line, but all bets from me are on Lyon being tagged the team's closer when the season starts.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
Though the Tigers are sticking to the company line the closer's job will be a competition -- largely between Lyon and right-hander Fernando Rodney, I'm not buying it. The Tigers didn't go out and pony up the money for Lyon if they didn't feel he could step right in and close the door at the back end of ball games. Rodney has proven that when healthy, he can be an exceptional setup reliever. Lyon, while not having proved exceptional, has proven that he can close out games. If the Tigers are able to enter 2009 with the 8th and 9th innings largely locked down by Rodney and Lyon in tight games, and both remain healthy, they may be in for a vastly improved bullpen. While I don't think its set in stone, I do think Lyon is the Tigers Opening Day closer.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I think Lyon will wind up as the Tigers' closer to start the year. He has the most experience in the role with 51 career saves, and he's held the role in the past at times with Arizona and Boston.
Lyon also had an outstanding first half before fading mightily down the stretch, so there could be a scenario where Fernando Rodney, or whoever has the hot hand could close to avoid having Lyon pitch on consecutive nights too many times to keep him fresh for the second half of the season.
Lyon wasn't the Tigers' top choice to close after pursuing J.J. Putz before he was dealt to the Mets, and they also kicked the tires on Kerry Wood and Trevor Hoffman, but Lyon should be able to hold down the fort until last year's draft class is ready to compete for jobs in the bullpen.
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