Detroit Tigers pitchers could force tough roster decisions

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Shane Greene, shown during a in June 2015 game, might lose his spot in the Detroit Tigers’ starting rotation when Daniel Norris rejoins the team but could move to the bullpen. That could spell the end of Logan Kensing’s time in Detroit. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)

Detroit Tigers starter Mike Pelfrey pitched six innings of one-run ball Friday against the Houston Astros. Shane Greene had seven strikeouts in a solid victory Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But one of them might lose their rotation spot soon, as Daniel Norris, who went 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA in his eight starts with Detroit last season, will make his next start for the Toledo Mud Hens—his third appearance rehabilitating from a back injury.

Based on performance and potential, one could easily argue Greene and Norris deserve rotation spots over Pelfrey, who has a 4.80 ERA since the start of 2011. But the Tigers likely will have him on a longer leash due to his two-year contract worth $16 million.

The easiest solution would be to move Greene to the bullpen, but that is quickly becoming less of a cinch. Detroit’s best reliever last season, Alex Wilson, finished his injury rehab and rejoined the team before Saturday’s game—pushing Buck Farmer out of the bullpen. Francisco RodriguezMark LoweJustin Wilson, and Drew VerHagen aren’t likely going anywhere. That leaves Kyle Ryan and Logan Kensing as potentially expendable relief pitchers. Both have had positive outings. Blaine Hardy, another bullpen force for the Tigers last year, is not far from finishing his rehab assignment, and he will likely dispel Ryan, who still has two minor league options.

That means Detroit, if it chooses to move one of its starters to the bullpen, would no longer have room for Kensing. He would need to pass through waivers to be assigned to a minor league affiliate.

It’s a good sign when your team has too many good players, and making these two difficult decisions—moving Greene in lieu of Pelfrey, then cutting Kensing—should give the Tigers the best relief corp they have had in recent memory.

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