Starting pitcher, the Tigers say. Austin Kubitza will start, no matter how many scouts see him as an eventual reliever.

The Tigers, frankly, don’t care what role best suits the 6-foot-5, 202-pound, right-handed pitcher who was their fifth pick (No. 126 overall) in this month’s draft and whom they signed on Friday.

“The absolute worst-case scenario for me is that he’ll pitch out of the bullpen and be real tough on right-handers,” said Tim Grieve, the Texas-based area scout who followed Kubitza during Kubitza’s time at Rice University.

“First and foremost, you want a winner, and here’s a guy at a big college program who took the ball every Friday and Saturday (college weekend series) and pitched deep into games. He’s competitive, he’s very intelligent, and he hasn’t missed a start.”

Grieve would concede Kubitza, 21 years old and a seventh-round pick by the Pirates in 2010, is not at the altitude of some previous celebrity Rice pitchers: Jeff Niemann, Phillip Humber, and David Aardsma.

But the Tigers have been watching Kubitza long enough to have liked his style even apart from his solid 2013 numbers: 2.06 ERA in 18 games (17 starts), which covered 752⁄3 innings. Kubitza had an opposing batting average of .207, with 71 strikeouts and 21 walks.

“He has a big league out-pitch with his slider,” Grieve said. “It’s not over-used. But he can maybe focus a little more on his fastball.

“He’s strictly a two-seam (sinker) guy. I saw him as a freshman touch 94, but the best I got out of him this spring was 93, and on most days he was in the 89-91 range. It will be there at times. But he’s not throwing 95.