Two words that excite both fans and team officials the most are "young pitching." It can be the difference between the postseason and playing golf in October, it can be the key to a championship and for teams not quite there yet it can be simply an exciting glimpse into what is hopefully a more successful future.
In a game where changes are constant, this season is lining up to be no different than others when it comes to young arms. But some spring training injuries, as well as the potential for a unique top pick in this year's draft, could lead to more new names showing up sooner in box scores. Let's look at some of the bigger names, and what is presenting (or delaying) their 2009 big league opportunities.
Opportunity knocks ... ahead of schedule
One of the bigger stories this spring has been the rash of injuries to starting pitchers, which is leading to a number of prospects getting longer-than-expected looks this spring, with many of them either pitching their way onto rosters, or being forced into big league roles well ahead of schedule.
Poster boy: Rick Porcello, Tigers. While it hasn't been made official yet, he remains the talk of Tigers camp after another stellar outing Tuesday. Jeremy Bonderman's arm and Dontrelle Willis' head have created openings, and all signs point to the 2007 first-round pick beginning the year in the big league rotation as a 20-year old.
He's incredibly difficult to project; the fact he led the Florida State League with a 2.66 ERA in his full-season debut is remarkable, but made even more so by the fact the Tigers limited Porcello's arsenal much of the season by forcing him to work more on throwing strikes and working efficiently as opposed to just blowing hitters away. The overall goal was to transform the best arm in the 2007 draft from a thrower to a pitcher, but the question remains whether 24 starts at High-A is enough of a lesson for him to be ready. His talent is unmistakable, his readiness is debatable.
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