On Tuesday morning the Tigers announced that 25-year-old left-hander Kyle Lobstein will make his second start of the season for his Major League club against the Indians. Lobstein will match up against Cleveland youngster Carlos Carrasco, hoping to continue a recent surge in which the Tigers have won seven of 10 games.
The rookie will certainly have a major impact on Tuesday's game, but his importance reaches well beyond this one game.
Lobstein is just one name among a host of arms trying to fill the gigantic hole left by injured pitcher Anibal Sanchez. Since Sanchez hit the disable list in August the Tigers have been scrambling to find a starter to keep the team competitive every fifth day.
It hasn't been easy.
Dave Dombrowski's first choice was electric lefty Robbie Ray, who was acquired as the centerpiece of the offseason trade sending Doug Fister to Washington. The return for Fister, who owns a 12-5 record and 2.55 ERA for the Nationals, should have been enough to offer the Tigers a serviceable starter. But Ray simply hasn't been able to get the job done.
In his last four starts for Detroit, Ray has allowed a total of 20 earned runs in under 15 innings. His ERA on the season has ballooned to 7.09, and, more importantly, the Tigers have lost each of those games. In fact, Ray hasn't even been able to keep the Tigers within shouting distance of their opponents. The team has lost by a combined score of 41-11 in his last four starts, a streak that ended with a 20-6 shellacking at the hands of the bottom-feeding Twins.
With Ray struggling and Justin Verlander dealing with a nagging injury, the Tigers handed 23-year-old Buck Farmer the ball after just one start above Single-A. Farmer allowed four runs in five innings, but followed up with an outing in Toledo in which he allowed seven runs and retired just one batter. Five days later he pitched against the Twins and allowed seven more runs in 1 1/3 innings.
The only other experiment was a spot start from Drew VerHagen. The 23-year-old held his own, allowing three runs in five innings, but lost to the Indians.
Detroit is clearly desperate for a starter to emerge from the farm system, and Lobstein looks like the most likely candidate heading into Tuesday.
Lobstein has made just one start for the Tigers, but gained the confidence of Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus by stifling the Yankees for six innings. In 11 2/3 innings this season Lobstein owns a 3.09 ERA.
The Tigers don't need Lobstein to be perfect, they just need a starter to keep games close and support a weak bullpen. With the calendar flipping to September with the Royals atop the AL Central, Detroit can't afford to waste any more games.
If the Tigers can win half of Lobstein's starts then the rookie will have done his job. Fans won't have to wait long for his next chance, as he looks for his first career win Tuesday night.