Ryan, Farmer to get first look at bullpen spots

Pair of young arms debuted as starters in 2014

Ryan, Farmer to get first look at bullpen spots

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Kyle Ryan and Buck Farmer both stepped in last summer when the Tigers needed starting pitchers in a pinch. Their spring is going to be spent competing for bullpen roles.

"We're going to use them, at least at the beginning of Spring Training, out of the 'pen," manager Brad Ausmus said. "We think they've got a better chance to help the team and make the team as relievers at this point.

"They will be used as relievers, going one inning, two innings. And if we get to a point in Spring Training where we don't see them making the team, then we'll start cranking up their innings so they can go to [Triple-A] Toledo and start."

The move has been expected for a while, at least in Ryan's case. Both Ausmus and president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said all offseason that they'd likely identify one or two of the young pitchers they called up as starters last summer and shift them into relief for Spring Training to compete for bullpen spots.

Though Ausmus didn't name anyone until camp opened, Ryan was a logical candidate. After starting and winning his Major League debut with six scoreless innings in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the White Sox on Aug. 30, he spent September as an extra left-hander in the bullpen, earning another win Sept. 15 at Minnesota when he induced an inning-ending double play to preserve a tie game.

"He seemed to have kind of nerves of steel," Ausmus said.

Farmer debuts with five frames

Farmer joins a handful of lefties in the mix for likely one spot alongside Tom Gorzelanny. The field includes incumbents Ian Krol and Blaine Hardy, lefty starter Kyle Lobstein, prospect Joe Mantiply and non-roster reliever Omar Duran.

Farmer jumped from low Class A West Michigan to Double-A Erie to Detroit in the span of about three weeks. The right-hander, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Friday, made two August starts for Detroit before working out of the bullpen in September.

"Buck Farmer was probably a guy who got to the big leagues quicker than anyone suspected," Ausmus said, "but watching him throw, I and [pitching coach] Jeff Jones felt like his stuff kind of played to a reliever role right now."

With Ryan and Farmer shifted, two other fill-in starters from last summer will stretch out as starters this spring. Lobstein and Drew VerHagen will serve as insurance starters in case of a rotation injury, though Lobstein could still conceivably crash the bullpen as a long reliever.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.