— James R. Chipman (@JAYRC_TigsTown) February 21, 2014
The Detroit Tigers made one of the biggest trades of the off-season when they traded Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. One of the reasons the Tigers felt they could make that trade was the emergence of Drew Smyly as a potential starting pitcher.
Fast forward to spring training 2014 and that same starting pitching candidate is now penned into the fifth spot in the rotation. If Smyly does start the year as part of the rotation it will be the first time the Detroit Tigers have had a left-handed starter since Dontrelle Willis in 2010. So why not bring back the most recent successful left-hander the Tiger have had to work with the Tigers young southpaw in training camp.
Kenny Rogers has been invited as a special instructor to spring training the last two seasons under jim Leyland. New Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus continued that tradition and extended the invitation to The Gambler again this season.
Rogers was brought in to work with the Tigers pitchers on fielding, holding runners and pick-offs. All skills Rogers was known for during his storied major league career.
But the biggest impact that Rogers may have on the Tigers this season may be his work with fellow lefty Drew Smyly.
Smyly has bounced from bullpen to swing starter over the last couple of seasons and has shown the ability to perform despite uncertainty with his role. Now that he is a part of the starting rotation a little tutalige from Kenny Rogers certainly wouldn’t hurt.
It can be assumed that Rogers has had a positive effect on Drew Smyly already. Symly has improved in each of his two major league seasons and has a golden opportunity to cement himself as a major league starter this season. Can that be traced directly back to Kenny Rogers? Maybe not but Rogers work with the youngster certainly hasn’t hurt.
Despite being counted on to start this season, fans should expect Smyly’s spot in the order to be skipped in the rotation when off days and game situations dictate.
We know we’re going to watch him,” general manager Dave Dombrowski said Sunday afternoon. “You’re not just going to throw him out there every fifth day for 125 pitches and seven or eight innings every single time, but we haven’t gotten into specifics on it.”
Simply put the Tigers don’t want to wear Smyly out in his first season as a starter.
Not just Drew, but any pitcher who isn’t recently accustomed to being a starter, there are plenty of opportunities to skip a start, bump them an extra day,” Ausmus said. “That in turn pushes their pitch count and number of innings down.”