Three Relievers Turned Starter in 2024

There are multiple teams taking a chance this season on relievers hoping to turn into effective starters. While it often goes the other way around, these three pitchers are attempting to establish themselves as members of the rotation. Will they be able to effectively make the switch this year?

Three Relievers Turned Starter in 2024

Michael King

The newest San Diego Padres starter, Michael King, has had an impressive career. He has a 3.38 career ERA over 247.2 innings pitched, but only had 10 starts upon entering 2023. As his season came to a finish with the New York Yankees, the team gave him the chance to join the rotation.

And he was exceptional. King was blitzing by hitters with a 1.88 ERA over eight starts, including 48 strikeouts in 38.1 innings that created plenty of buzz. King, of course, would end up being a key piece in the Juan Soto trade. Now he joins a Padres rotation that lost pitchers like Michael WachaSeth Lugo, and free agent Blake Snell.

Even though he has primarily been a reliever, he has the pitch mix to dominate as a starter. In 2023, King relied on a sinker, sweeper, four-seamer, and changeup. He displayed impressive strikeout stuff while muffling the impact hitters could make on the ball. There will need to be an adjustment for King as he takes on a full starter’s workload, but there is a wide-open opportunity for him to become a foundational member of the pitching staff.

Sean Manaea

Although Sean Manaea has been a starter in the past, the majority of his 2023 was spent as a reliever. Similar to King, the San Francisco Giants allowed Manaea to take the mound as a starter for a few turns at the end of the year. Over four starts, he tossed a 2.25 ERA over 24 innings.

Manaea joins the New York Mets as someone who has already proven he can withstand the strain of a full season’s inning count. He has pitched over 140 innings in five different seasons. Now returning as a starter, the question isn’t so much about durability as it is about upside. After introducing a sweeper and improving his changeup, Will Sammon of The Athletic reports that Manaea plans to add a cutter to his pitch mix, as well.

He has more weapons at his disposal than during his previous run as a starter with the Oakland Athletics. If he continues to find success with his revamped arsenal, Manaea could be set to have a late-career resurgence.

Jordan Hicks

The Giants added their own intriguing new starter in former St. Louis Cardinal Jordan Hicks. The flamethrowing righty will have to make the most drastic changes of the three pitchers listed here. He is coming off an incredible 2023, but didn’t pitch more than two innings in any game last season. He has worked as a starter in the minors and for a short time in 2022, so Hicks still has noteworthy experience in the role. The Giants have made some fascinating offseason additions, and his presence will be vital to the rotation’s success.

Although he can regularly reach triple digits with his fastball, how will he be impacted by tuning that down over the course of a full season? Maria Guardado of reports that Hicks was reaching 96 mph in spring training camp. That still offers excellent strikeout potential for a starter, especially when combined with his other pitches. He threw a wipeout sweeper that held opponents to a .136 batting average and a stunning 59.5% whiff rate, according to BaseballSavant

Hicks’ ability to torch opponents with his fastball and a dangerous pitch mix offers a glimpse of what he might offer the Giants as a full-time member of the rotation. It’s a risky move for a team that lost some key pitchers and will rely heavily on rookies. Hicks’ unproven nature as a starter might leave some doubt entering the year, but if he finds success in his new role, he might be better than anyone on the outside could have expected.

Main Image: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

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