Looking for Relief

An article about relief pitching may not be what most fans are itching to read, but it still one of the most critical parts of a baseball team. Without a solid relief staff, fine production from the rest of the team would be negated. So while more fans bought their tickets to come see "Pudge" Rodriguez than to see Jamie Walker, these late-inning hurlers will be just as vital to the team's success.

As of right now, it appears that Fernando Rodney will be the closer to start things off, but a couple of candidates that want to finish things off will give him some fierce competition. Rodney will need to cut his ERA drastically if he intends on fending off Matt Anderson and Franklyn German. German is supposed to be the closer of the future, but he lacks control at the big league level. If he can start to get ahead of hitters more consistently, I don't think he'll have any trouble claiming closer duties. Anderson will need to reclaim his triple digit fastball if he wants a shot at closing again, but it's not likely after he suffered a significant shoulder injury in 2002.

If the Tigers had to look in the bullpen and find a bright spot from a dismal 2004 campaign, it would have to be the left-handed setup man, Jamie Walker. Walker seemed untouchable by lefty bats, and he was no slouch against righties either. Walker was the only consistent pitcher out of the pen, most of the others couldn't spell cunsisstint. This is where Al Levine comes in. Last year, Levine had a 2.79 ERA in 71 innings for the Devil Rays and Royals. His addition will equal less runs for the opposition and more victories for the Tigers.

The Tigers will have a few more guys to finish out the bullpen. Danny Patterson and Chris Spurling should own two of these spots. This means there will be an intense competition for one or two remaining places. The main candidates for them are Eric Eckenstahler, Chris Mears, Shane Loux, and the pitchers that don't make the 5th spot in the rotation. Those competing pitchers will be Nate Robertson, Gary Knotts, Matt Roney, and Esteban Yan.

The addition of Levine and the return of some proven pitchers will make the bullpen much better. The fiery competitions for few spots between many people will actually propel them from better to …uh, uh … even better.


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