Sunday, January 24, 2010

Roster Takes Shape As Spring Training Approaches

The many Tigerfest interviews revealed some answers regarding the Tigers plans for the upcoming spring training and regular season.

First, Dave Dombrowski confirmed that Gerald Laird would continue to get the bulk of the catching duties, at least for the first part of the season. How much Alex Avila plays will depend on how spring training goes for him both offensively and defensively, although he needs more work on the latter than the former. He could open the season as the Tigers back-up catcher or he could go to Toledo for regular playing time. If he does go to Toledo, then Robinson Diaz will be the back-up. Diaz batted .279/.307/.357 in 149 at bats for the Pirates in 2009. He has a reputation as a capable defender.

Jim Leyland said that rookie center fielder Austin Jackson will start the spring as the Tigers lead off hitter but there is no guarantee he will be there on opening day. Nobody is worried about Jackson's defense. He is a strong defender, who is capable of replacing Curtis Granderson in the field. The question is his offense. He batted .300 in AAA last year but had a 40/123 BB/K ratio and a very low .105 isolated power. He has yet to show home run power at any level. Leyland also said he would be reluctant to have two rookies batting at the the top of the order. So, if Jackson leads off, Sizemore probably won't bat second.

Leyland also convinced Dombrowski that newly acquired Phil Coke should be a reliever, rather than a starter. Leyland feels as if there are already enough pitchers auditioning for starting jobs this spring and he didn't want Coke to take their innings. I suspect there's more to it than that though. He has seen Coke as a reliever and probably feels he is best suited to that role.

The Tigers appear confident that Jeremy Bonderman will be the fourth starter behind Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. I'm skeptical but hopeful. If he somehow gets back to full strength, that would be a huge boost to the staff. The main competitors for the fifth spot are Nate Robertson, Armando Galarraga and Eddie Bonine.

Given all of the above, here's an early projection of the opening day roster:

C. Gerald Laird
1B. Miguel Cabrera
2B. Scott Sizemore
SS. Adam Everett
3B. Brandon Inge
LF. Ryan Raburn (Leyland now says it will be Guillen but I suspect he'll play more DH)
CF. Austin Jackson
RF. Magglio Ordonez
DH. Carlos Guillen

C. Robinson Diaz
IF Ramon Santiago
OF. Clete Thomas
UT. Donnie Kelly

SP. Justin Verlander
SP. Rick Porcello
SP. Max Scherzer
SP. Jeremy Bonderman
SP. Nate Robertson

RP. Jose Velarde
RP. Bobby Seay
RP. Phil Coke
RP. Fu-Te-Ni
RP Ryan Perry
RP. Zach Miner
RP. Dan Schlereth


  1. Lee, I saw you left out Zumaya in the bullpen. any thoughts?

  2. I'm still skeptical about his shoulder. However, if he's truly healthy and has no setbacks, then he'll surely be on the opening day roster.


  3. Do you think Seay is going to be moved. I hope with the number of lefties in our pen we do move him. We should be able to get a middle tier prospect back for considering he's an amazing LOOGY.

  4. If Galarraga and Willis fail to claim the fifth rotation spot, what do you think happens with them? Does Galarraga have options left? Does Willis return to the DL, or do the Tigers release him?

  5. KB, I think there is a decent chance they will trade a lefty reliever and Seay is probably the leading candidate because of his salary. They'll probably wait until near the end of spring training to see how everyone looks. They could sure use a left-handed bat.

    Dberg, Galarraga has an option so he would probably go to Toledo if he doesn't claim the fifth spot. I think they'll try to find a way to put Willis on the DL for insurance reasons. At least I think that's what's going on. I can't imagine they think he's going to help them this year.


  6. I would be surprised if Jackson wins the starting job outright, even if Leyland gives he first crack at it. He's played one full season at AAA and the Tigers have never been too quick to rush players (Granderson, for example).

  7. Cody, I think he'll win the job because I don't think he has a lot of competition. It's either him or a platoon of Thomas/Wells. I'm not confident he'll keep the job all year though.




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