Henning: Pitchers can take sting from Scherzer's loss

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Digging through the story lines and effects from Max Scherzer's gamble that paid off in a $200 million payday to pitch for the Nationals.

Tigers followers are probably overlooking some kid pitchers as they gaze at 2015, and beyond.

What did you know about Max Scherzer five years ago? What was Doug Fister's celebrity status before he arrived in Detroit in 2011? What modern-era pitcher, apart from the lamentable David Clyde, ever made a big league start minus a minor leagues rehearsal?

And how many of those pitchers shoved to the show as rookies pitched with great aplomb or command straight from the chute?

This is where reasonable perspective is helpful when looking at the Tigers minus Scherzer, both this season and afterward.

These names will not send Tigers Nation seeking cell phones and the number to Comerica Park's season-ticket office: Buck Farmer, Drew VerHagen, Kyle Lobstein, Kyle Ryan, Austin Kubitza, Kevin Ziomek.

But if you apply normal percentages to farm-system arms when those pitchers have either promise or a credible track record, you realize one, or even two or more, could find another pitch, or another gear of command, or whatever qualitative edge comes from patience and development as they move closer to a shot in the big leagues.

That's what happens with pitchers. With lots of them. They kick around the bushes for a couple of years after they were drafted and suddenly the game becomes manageable. They might not be All-Stars. But they can grow up, sometimes in a hurry, as legitimate rotation or bullpen options.

Farmer, Lobstein, Ryan, and VerHagen all had at least one start for the Tigers in 2014 after Anibal Sanchez got hurt and the Tigers had to raid the bushes for temporary help. None did much, but that's often the reality with kid pitchers who get promoted prematurely, as everyone knew was the case with Farmer, Lobstein, Ryan, and VerHagen.

There were reasons they made it to Detroit. There was a reason Ziomek has a chance to make a dent in 2015 (22 years old, left-hander, 2014 numbers at Single A West Michigan: 23 starts, 2.27 ERA, 1.15 WHIP).

It never means the kids are sure things. Most of them aren't. But a few make it, and a few end up being important to a team, sometimes to its starting rotation.

It's something to consider as some overly anxious fans ponder a swan dive off the Ambassador Bridge.

The Tigers might yet take a stab at free-agent blue-chipper James Shields. They could swing a deal, even before July, because trades and the Tigers, are regular events.

But if they decide their 2015 rotation, for now, is David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Shane Greene, and Alfredo Simon, it doesn't mean it will remain a long-term quintet — especially if a young starter does what reasonable young starting pitchers frequently do: grows into a big league job as spring camp and a new season signal new levels of skill and maturity.

Tigers temporarily looking at a pair of early draft picks in 2015.

This qualifies as news, given that the Tigers are normally forfeiting first-round choices because of billboard free agents they tend annually to sign.

But as it stands today, the Tigers will have their own first-round pick in 2015 (23rd) and another "sandwich" selection they receive for losing Scherzer to the Nationals. That pick will be somewhere between 30 and 35, overall, based on how the remaining free-agent signings shake out.

It's not like the old days where you inherited a team's specific first- or second-round turn when a top-drawer free agent was signed. Now, the signing team simply loses its pick, which disappears into space, as the draft order moves ahead a step for each draft choice lost.

Hence, the Tigers — unless they sign Shields — are looking at two picks that have first-round equivalency. And those could prove handy if the scouts have guessed right.