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 Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned

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PostSubject: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:56 am

Thursday, March 13, 2008
Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Two weeks from today, Tigers manager Jim Leyland will turn six weeks of spring camp into 25 roster spots.

Leyland will decide which players to take north ahead of the March 31 opener against the Royals at Comerica Park.

A man who considers final roster cuts -- and the crushed dreams they entail -- to be among the toughest aspects of his job will use every remaining Grapefruit League game to evaluate a team mostly settled as spring training heads into the home stretch.

While his everyday lineup is set, some spots, particularly in the bullpen, are not close to being resolved.

Asked after Wednesday's victory at Joker Marchant Stadium if his to-do list was pretty much limited to deciding on relief pitchers, Leyland looked up from his postgame snack and nodded.

"A little bit," he said. "We've got to figure out the bullpen and the catching situation. And there's a lot of work to do on situational game stuff that we need to rehearse.

"For the most part, we're pretty well set. We've got to figure out a lot of bullpen situations."

Looking at the team in segments, and with two important weeks remaining, Leyland's roster shapes up accordingly:

Infield: Settled

Three new starters have settled into their jobs with ease.

Miguel Cabrera has looked solid at third. His range is not in the realm of Brandon Inge's, but the Tigers are pleased.

Edgar Renteria has been even smoother at shortstop. Consistent with scouting reports, his range is average, but his soft hands and arm are reliable in replacing Carlos Guillen, who shifted to first base.

Guillen has been fine during his transition. He makes all the plays and covers a lot of ground -- almost too much, sometimes grabbing balls the second baseman should field. Guillen has had a brilliant spring, hitting .343 with four home runs.

Placido Polanco, the lone starting infield incumbent, might be benefiting (.483 with two home runs) from an infield that, overall, has been upgraded.

Ramon Santiago is a lock to make the team as a backup. His defense is blue-ribbon and his offense, surprisingly, has been one of camp's better stories (.476 average).

Ryan Raburn
likely will be used, as well, as an occasional fill-in for Polanco at second base.

Marcus Thames will spell Guillen at first, although he figures on most days to be Jacque Jones' replacement in left.

Outfield: Settled

There have been no surprises, except, perhaps, for the bulk and muscle seen from the left fielder.

"I didn't know he was that big," Leyland has said of Jones. "I thought he was a little guy."

Jones projects as a definite upgrade defensively. Hitting left-handed also should pay off in a lineup loaded with right-handers.

Curtis Granderson
is acting as if he will somehow improve upon his 2007 season.

Magglio Ordonez is behaving similarly. At 34, and coming off an American League batting championship, Ordonez has looked like the same hitter who hit .363 with 28 home runs.

Raburn also is likely to back up Ordonez and Granderson.

Catcher: Unsettled

This is the position issue that has led to some serious decision-making for Leyland and Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president and general manager.

Pudge Rodriguez's backup was certain to be Vance Wilson until Wilson's throwing arm decided not to cooperate nearly a year after he had Tommy John surgery.

Given that Brandon Inge hasn't taken a liking to going back behind the plate, which likely will lead to him being traded by the end of camp, the Tigers have had a single option as their No. 2: Dane Sardinha, a solid receiver and thrower who does not hit with much skill.

Wilson could make it back soon, but likely not before Opening Day. The Tigers could go with Sardinha, but they hate giving up offense at a position that calls for it. Dombrowski will be looking for help there.

Starting pitching: Settled

It has been a highlight. The Tigers have gone 5-for-5 in impressive and consistent performances from Justin Verlander, Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson.

Yorman Bazardo, who likely will earn a bullpen job, is a possible sixth starter.

Relief pitching: Unsettled

Assuming Bazardo makes the team as a long reliever, the Tigers have six more bullpen positions.

Todd Jones, Zach Miner, Jason Grilli and Bobby Seay are safe bets to make the team.

Tim Byrdak also would be a favorite, although he has taken some lumps during camp. He could be squeezed out if two right-handers emerge as the tandem Leyland ideally wants for the eighth inning.

Fernando Rodney's health is the first issue. If his tendinitis disappears and he works at least a few games before camp ends, Rodney gets one of the 12 pitching spots.

Denny Bautista
, the ex-Rockies right-hander who has looked very good since pitching coach Chuck Hernandez persuaded him to pitch exclusively from the stretch, is a potential front-runner for the 12th spot.
He also could be the best option for replacing Rodney if Rodney begins the season on the DL.

Francisco Cruceta
could make a late rally -- if he ever gets to camp
. But his visa problems in the Dominican Republic have all but canceled his shot at a job.

Rodney's health, Bautista's control (a chronic problem during his previous big league stops) and Cruceta's visa are the x-factors as Leyland begins his final deliberations.

You can reach Lynn Henning at lynn.henning@detnews.com


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola


Last edited by GoGetEmTigers on Fri Mar 14, 2008 2:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:42 pm

It sure is great that things are already settled [roster wise] for our Tigers!

Unlike some other teams!


GO The D
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PostSubject: Re: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:07 am

I would like to see Ryan Raburn stay with the team. I like that guy and he also CAUGHT yesterday!!

Mike Holliman signed AUTOS for quite a while afterwards....nice guy!!
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PostSubject: Re: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Sat Mar 15, 2008 12:05 pm

GO :ryan:
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PostSubject: Re: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:31 pm

I spelled it wrong. Mike Hollimon signed AUTOS for lots of fans
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PostSubject: Re: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:28 pm

tigersaint wrote:
I spelled it wrong. Mike Hollimon signed AUTOS for lots of fans

He seems like a really nice guy.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
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PostSubject: Re: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Sun Mar 16, 2008 3:10 am

And he signed lots of autographs for the fans

Too bad more players don't!
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PostSubject: Re: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Sun Mar 16, 2008 12:37 pm

It's a pretty dicey game. Also, some fans get aggressive, which the players want to avoid at all costs. Short of standing in line at Tiger Fest or just plain lucking out and getting one, they're hard to come by. *sigh*
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PostSubject: Re: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:40 pm

Especially the long-haired dude!!
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PostSubject: Re: Who's heading north with the Tigers? Stay tuned   Tue Mar 18, 2008 1:07 pm

especially especially the long-haired dude!
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