March 6, 2009 at 1:00 am

Lynn Henning: Tigers

Porcello, 20, as a starter for Tigers? That's looking better and better

I wonder if anything, short of the kid developing arm trouble, will thwart Rick Porcello's audition as a Tigers starting pitcher.

Every time a 20-year-old with Porcello's rare talent takes the mound, you can see the Tigers collectively take comfort in the fact he's pitching. That says everything about why manager Jim Leyland probably will push to bring him north.

The motivation for promoting him is not ideal. The Tigers would clearly love to have him understudy a bit more at Double-A Erie. And that might yet be their decision.

But the more Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson struggle, the more obvious it becomes Porcello will be starting the season with the Tigers.

He has too much talent. After last year's debacle, the Tigers will not go north without a team they believe can put heat on the American League from the first day of the season.

And that points today to them putting Porcello into the rotation.

There will be risks, absolutely, although they should be calculated risks.

The first concern will be pitch counts. Porcello was held to a 75-pitch limit last season, as a 19-year-old in his first full year of pro baseball.

The Tigers will be careful, probably looking initially at something in the 85-pitch range.

They also will be looking to right-hander Zach Miner as Porcello's insurance policy. If the youngster falters early in a game, Miner probably takes over.

And if Porcello proves he needs more time in the bushes, Miner again represents the best backup plan for filling out Leyland's rotation.

However it shakes out, it's difficult to believe as Porcello continues to impress that he will be anywhere but in a Tigers uniform 30 days from now -- when the team opens its regular season in Toronto.

More Lynn Henning