Mensching: Don't fret over Alfredo Simon; he'll be fine

Kurt Mensching
Special to The Detroit News

Gut check time. Alfredo Simon. Starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Really?

Yes, really. This is probably not a fact that excites you. More likely you're caught somewhere between being incredulous and suffering from malaise.

Don't worry. This feeling is normal, and altogether understandable, too.

He has just one full season as a starting pitcher under his belt, and only half of that went well. His ERA ballooned from 2.70 in the first half to 4.52 after the All-Star break in 2014.

In his only real starting experience before that, Simon opened 16 games in 2011 and was dinged for a 4.96 ERA for his efforts.

Worried about him spending a full year in the Tigers' rotation? Great. That just shows you're paying attention. I'm worried, too.

Forgetting for a moment the price the Tigers paid to acquire him -- pitching prospect Jonathon Crawford and infield prospect Eugenio Suarez -- or the price they're paying him to pitch in Detroit ($5.5 million), it seems evident Simon's best place is in the bullpen.

Simon put together 2.66 and 2.87 ERA seasons in 2012-13 before returning to the rotation. He ate up innings in both years, peaking at 88 in his final year of relief work.

But the Tigers have no plans for the 33-year-old to return to the bullpen -- even if you and I think that's the best place for him.

That was a lot of bad news. Here's some good.

We're all making a bigger deal out of this than it will really amount to be. Because that's what we do. It is January. It's cold out, gray, and it keeps snowing. It's pretty easy to picture everything turning out worse than it actually will.

In this case, we're all imagining a world in which Simon can't possibly keep his ERA under 5 or win any games. We're taking a player whose job is to be slotted behind David Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, and making it sound as if the entire season rides on his arm. And, frankly, we're all still a bit ticked off over the news Max Scherzer will sign with the Nationals.

Real talk: The Tigers don't need five All-Star players in their rotation. Simon almost certainly isn't going to be as bad as we picture right now. And compared to other players slotted in the fourth or fifth spots on their teams, he'll compare just fine.

So, no, the Tigers do not have a bad rotation. Far from it. They just aren't going to be talked about in the same breath as the Nationals any more. Not that it did the Nationals all that much good last year -- or the Tigers for that matter when they had both Scherzer and Price.

There's really no reason the Tigers need to sign James Shields, a player who'll likely cost more than $20 million a season, to be the fourth starter. And it's hard to believe they have the pieces necessary to trade for Jordan Zimmermann, who is coming off a 2.66 ERA season with the Nationals.

There are no indications the Tigers are all that bothered by their current rotation or even bothering to pursue other options.

Their hope is that a balanced team with better fielding -- counting on improvements both at shortstop with a healthy Jose Iglesias and in the outfield with Yoenis Cespedes an improvement over Torii Hunter -- and one of the better run-scoring lineups in baseball will win enough games to get to the postseason and really on a strong top half of the rotation when they're there.

That's a pretty good bet to take. At least until the postseason, where anything can happen and suddenly you have two wild-card teams facing off in the World Series.

You don't have to be excited to have Simon in the rotation. But, seriously, it's just not that big of a deal.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog ( He can be reached at