Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed Sunday that acquiring a starting pitcher is his top priority at this year’s trade deadline.
“I don’t feel urgency, but I’d like to do it,” he told FOXSports.com in an interview Sunday. “It’s apparent that (Justin) Verlander’s there, and our other guys haven’t been as consistent. There’s no question we’d like to add somebody to our rotation.
“We’re looking to do that, and hopefully we’ll do it. But we’ll see.”
Tigers scouts are canvassing ballparks across the country, with Ubaldo Jimenez, Hiroki Kuroda and Derek Lowe among the pitchers on their wish list, sources say.
Dombrowski said he likes his team’s everyday lineup but would be open-minded to upgrades. Of all the possibilities, third base (where Brandon Inge has been a disappointment) seems to be the most likely spot.
“It’s no secret we haven’t had production out of second base – but we got (Carlos) Guillen back,” Dombrowski said. “He’s been swinging pretty well. We know he’s not going to have great range, but we think he can help us. For a while, people were talking about right field, but Magglio (Ordoñez) is swinging the bat well. He’s brought his average up. He’s hit the ball hard.
“Really, the only spot we have is third base. We’ve got a couple guys there (Inge and utility man Don Kelly). We’ll see how they do. Brandon Inge has not had a good year – I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But we like Brandon Inge. We think he’s a lot better player than he’s been (this year), average-wise.”
Detroit relievers combined for the second-worst ERA in the majors during the first half. And yet that doesn’t appear to be an area of need – at least, not in comparison to the rotation.
“I keep reading, ‘The Tigers need bullpen help,’” Dombrowski said. “Well, we don’t feel we need bullpen help. Can we be better? Sure. But we’ve got an All-Star closer (Jose Valverde). (Joaquin) Benoit’s pitched tremendous for us. You wouldn’t find a setup guy like Joaquin Benoit out there. We moved Phil Coke to the bullpen. He’s a No. 1 left-handed reliever. Then you’ve got (Al) Alburquerque back (from the disabled list). He’s been pitching really well.
“That’s why sometimes, statistically, it can be misleading.”
The Tigers haven’t announced a starter for Wednesday’s series finale against Oakland. Dombrowski said it’s “not impossible, but doubtful” that the team will trade for a new starter before that game, so it appears the assignment will belong to one of two left-handers at Class AAA Toledo: Charlie Furbush or Duane Below.
Furbush, 25, has better numbers than Below at Toledo. Furbush has a 4.03 ERA in 14 major-league appearances this season but has fared better as a reliever than a starter in Detroit.
Below, 25, has no major-league experience but leads the International League with 115 innings pitched. Below is 9-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 18 starts this year, having regained prospect status after missing most of the 2009 season with a sprain in his throwing elbow. “He’s made significant strides this year,” Dombrowski said. “It’s a matter of coming back from (the injury). He’s got three pitches, and he’s been able to command them.”
Dombrowski said Jacob Turner, the organization’s top pitching prospect, isn’t a candidate to start Wednesday. Dombrowski added Turner is “unlikely” to pitch in the majors this year, citing a desire to limit his innings.
Turner, 20, has nearly surpassed his workload from last season. He threw 115 1/3 innings last year and is already at 105 2/3 innings this year.
“We love him,” Dombrowski said. “We think he’s going to be a No. 1 starter. He’s very close to pitching in the big leagues. I’m not sure how much more time he needs in the minors, except that he’s also pitched a lot of innings this year compared to where he’s been in the past. We always have concerns about that. The innings pitched becomes an important factor.”
Turner would be an obvious prospect for the Rockies to request in trade talks involving Jimenez, but it’s not clear if the Tigers would trade him.
Dombrowski said the strength of the Tigers’ farm system is “upper-level starting pitching,” with most of their top position players (such as 19-year-old third baseman Nick Castellanos) in the lower minors.
— Jon Paul Morosi