Saturday, April 05, 2008

Keys to the Season: Toledo Mudhens Bullpen

Blaine Neal (30) - Apparently Neal is Toledo's closer. I would have thought he was older, as he hasn't had Major League success in five years. If the Tigers get desperate for pitching, he could turn a solid season into a big league gig.

Francis Beltran (28) - One time a hot shot prospect, the key for Beltran will be to continue to put his Tommy John surgery behind him. As the last pitcher officially cut in Spring Training, he may be the first to get a shot, especially if Jason Grilli keeps hanging change ups in tie games.

Clay Rapada (27) - Apparently over the shoulder tendinitis, Rapada will be the first lefty up if healthy and if needed. He'll just need to pitch reasonably well this year and avoid further shoulder problems.

Aaron Fultz (34) - Plan B as far as backup LOOGY's go. He'll need to show that the problems he had in Spring Training with Cleveland aren't for real. With the troubles the Tigers are having putting a bullpen together, he may get a shot to show his stuff.

Preston Larrison (27) - No longer a prospect, but a possible option in relief this year. The big thing for Larrison will be to stay healthy (he really hasn't shown the ability to withstand a whole season). If he can, he may be able to become a bullpen fixture rather than AAA fodder.

Jeremy Johnson (25) - Now six years removed from his breakout season in 2002, Johnson has yet to re-emerge as a top prospect, but pitched very well in relief last season. This will be his ninth season with the Tigers' organization, and he's still the youngest member of this bullpen.

Anastacio Martinez (29) - More of a minor league innings eater than anything else. Martinez will have to pitch very well in order to warrant a spot with the big club.

Ian Ostlund (29) - He's starting the season on the disabled list. I don't know what the injury is, but he's probably the longest shot among Toledo's pitchers to get a shot in the bullpen this year.

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