When we looked last week at questions facing the AL Central heading into the season, a crucial one for the Tigers involved their starting pitching. With Justin Verlander heading up Detroit's rotation, they can match aces with any club. After Verlander though, there are a few question marks for a team that aims to contend.
Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer have a ton of talent, but had thrown less than 400 major league innings between them coming into 2010. At the back of the rotation, although Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman have enjoyed success in the past, both have struggled immensely over the past three years. Last season, Willis posted a 7.49 ERA in seven big league starts, while Bonderman had an 8.71 mark in eight appearances.
There are at least a couple names remaining on the free agent market that could interest the Tigers. Jarrod Washburn may not be one of them — his disastrous eight-game stint in 2009 in Detroit (7.33 ERA) is too fresh, and Scott Boras is still pushing for his client to earn more than clubs are willing to pay. Right-handers like Pedro Martinez and Braden Looper could be fits for the Tigers, however. Pedro has been effective enough in the National League to believe that he could succeed in the AL Central, and Looper has eaten up 190+ IP in each of the last two seasons.
For now, the Tigers appear content to exercise some patience. By trading away Nate Robertson, they exhibited confidence in their current group of arms, and so far they've been proven right. Willis and Bonderman both opened their campaigns with quality starts, and should young guns Porcello and Scherzer falter, it's more likely to happen later in the year, as they rack up a full season of innings. The success of the Tigers' rotation should be an important factor in the AL Central race in 2010. Whether or not they'll need to acquire another starter will be worth keeping an eye on as the year progresses.