TigsTown MLN: Eight Erie Starters?

The Erie SeaWolves continue to battle along as they jockey for first place with Akron in the Southern division of the Eastern League. But as they currently sit just a half game behind Akron, they may be in line for a huge boost over the next month, as the entire rotation may very well be infused with a number of the top arms in the entire organization.

For starters, the Justin Verlander watch remains on high alert, as many in Erie excitedly await the arrival of the Tigers phenom prospect who has cakewalked his way right through the Florida State League. Many Tiger officials have acknowledged that at this point Verlander is likely simply overwhelming the opposition and is likely in need of a stiffer challenge.

Even those in Lakeland have come to grips with the fact that Verlander will be on his way up to a tougher level, the only questions when exactly. It's possible that the organization will allow Verlander to receive his All Star nomination and maybe even be the starter in the All Star game before moving up. But with the All Star game coming June 18th, it's unlikely Verlander would remain past that.

And of course, there remains the two studs in limbo, as Humberto Sanchez and Kyle Sleeth continue to work their way back from injury. It's hopeful that both will be able to return to action some time this month, but the prognosis remains more optimistic with Sanchez than it does Sleeth. No Tiger official will even mention the ‘T.J.' word, but skeptics believe that could be exactly where Sleeth is heading, as his violent motion that the Tigers worked to correct last season may have already caused damage. For now, we'll have to wait and see.

Of course, if the team adds three new starting pitchers, someone is going to have to move out (or up). The first to get the nod will likely be Nate Cornejo, as the veteran continues to rebuild arm strength. Cornejo hasn't been blowing away opponents, but sports a 3.40 ERA through 10 starts, and while he has just 31 strikeouts in 53 innings, he has walked just six batters over that span, a good sign for a pitcher that struggled mightily with his control as soon as he reached the big league level back when he was one of the organization's top prospects.

But six, minus one plus three still comes out to eight; meaning at least one (and really two) more rotation spots would need to be trimmed.

The team is currently carrying six starters already, and so someone like Rob Henkel might be in line for a promotion, as Henkel has plenty of experience at the AA level, and the bigger concern with him revolves his health. But the Tigers are more concerned with him making it through the year healthy, and would rather he work on that rather than be faced with a steeper challenge, at least for the time being.

But then how would the final spot open up? Well, barring an injury, or possibly someone like Randor Bierd struggling and requiring being sent back down to A-ball, Joel Zumaya may just be that guy. ‘Zoom' still needs to improve his command, work on refining his change-up and improve his stamina, but Zumaya won't turn 21 until November of this year, and the possibility exists (though it is small) that should he continue to improve, he may very well get the opportunity to pitch at Comerica Park before the season closes out.

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