DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers are considering using a six-man rotation for at least some of this season as they return to a normal schedule with a pitching staff that will likely include some of the team’s top prospects.
General manager Al Avila spoke with reporters Tuesday, the day before Detroit’s first workout for pitchers and catchers.
“In our meeting today, we did discuss a six-man rotation, and then really, getting through the season and having relievers mixed in,” Avila said. ”You might see more players being brought up and optioned throughout the season, as you need fresh arms from week to week.”
Last year’s abbreviated schedule lightened the workload for pitchers throughout baseball. Matthew Boyd led the Tigers in innings with 60 1/3.
It remains to be seen how easily pitchers can re-adjust to a 162-game schedule, and Detroit has several young options who are still trying to establish themselves as big leaguers — and whose arms may need to be handled carefully. A six-man rotation is one potential solution.
“I just don’t know how you’re going to get through all the innings that you need,” Avila said. “Now in saying that, there will be flexibility. I don’t know that we need it right at the beginning of the season, but certainly once we get underway, and we’ll make adjustments.”
Boyd (12 starts last year) and Spencer Turnbull (11) both return. Casey Mize, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, and Tarik Skubal, another highly regarded prospect, made seven starts each for Detroit in 2020, with mixed results.
Michael Fulmer made 10 starts but never went more than three innings in his return from Tommy John surgery.
Daniel Norris and Tyler Alexander might start more games if necessary, and Avila said Matt Manning — a first-round pick in 2016 — could make his major league debut at some point this season.
Avila also left open the possibility of bringing in more help from outside the organization. Detroit signed right-hander Jose Urena in December, and they agreed to a minor league deal with left-hander Derek Holland with an invite to major league spring training.
“We’re definitely looking for more pitching as we speak,” Avila said. “Whether it be a major league contract or a minor league with an NRI, I’m not really sure, but we’re definitely looking for more pitching. … I think at least one more starter would be ideal.”
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