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 Thomas sent to Minors as shoulder heals

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PostSubject: Thomas sent to Minors as shoulder heals   Wed Mar 31, 2010 4:23 pm

Thomas sent to Minors as shoulder heals
Tigers' 25-man roster set with Kelly getting last bench spot

By Jason Beck /

03/31/10 1:55 PM ET

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers set their 25-man roster Wednesday by optioning outfielder Clete Thomas to Triple-A Toledo, thus making utility man Don Kelly their final position player.

The move came after an MRI exam on Thomas' injured right shoulder showed no serious damage. He's expected to be ready in time for the Mud Hens' season opener. He hasn't played since taking a pitch off his shoulder last week, causing a deep bone bruise on his shoulder blade. He can swing the bat and has taken batting practice for several days, but he hasn't been able to throw.

Essentially, the choice had come down to Kelly or Thomas for at least the final week of camp. In the end, Kelly's ability to play infield and outfield offered more to the Tigers, who have third baseman Brandon Inge and second baseman Scott Sizemore back from offseason surgeries.

With Kelly and Ryan Raburn, the Tigers have two superutility players who can play most positions on the field, except for shortstop, catcher and pitcher. Kelly bats left-handed, and Raburn is a right-handed hitter. Both played all over the field in Spring Training.

"His versatility was a factor," manager Jim Leyland said of Kelly.

Thomas can play all three outfield spots well, but does not play the infield.

Both Kelly and Thomas had strong Spring Training performances at the plate. Kelly got off to a torrid start, then found a level after cooling off. He entered Wednesday batting .364 (20-for-55) with six doubles, two home runs and six RBIs. Thomas was batting .389 (14-for-36) with a home run and three RBIs before his injury.

"I think Clete Thomas is one of the best prospects we've got," Leyland said. "I think he should be an everyday Major League player. I'll tell you the one thing I told him: I think the one thing he's got to learn to do is get regimented, where every day's the same -- get into a routine, a concentration routine every single day -- and I think he'll be an everyday Major League player for a long time."

The Tigers' everyday lineup has long been set. Detroit's bench will feature switch-hitting utility infielder Ramon Santiago, left-handed-hitting catcher Alex Avila, Raburn and Kelly.

The bullpen features three left-handers of different styles: converted starter Phil Coke, sidearmer Fu-Te Ni and power/crafty blend Brad Thomas. Closer Jose Valverde leads the right-handed part of the 'pen along with setup men Joel Zumaya and Ryan Perry. Knuckleball pitcher Eddie Bonine has the ability to be both a long reliever and a ground-ball inducer.

"I like our team," Leyland said. "I think it's a talented group. I think it's a great bunch of guys."

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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