And then there was one, or maybe two

Todd Jones 3-13-08
Todd Jones pitches a 1-2-3 inning against the Braves
Credit Roger DeWitt

That would be spots available in the seven man bullpen. Jim Leyland ended some of the speculation today by announcing that Todd Jones, Bobby Seay, Tim Byrdak, Jason Grilli, and Zach Miner were locks. The ambiguity now surrounds Fernando Rodney and his health. A healthy Rodney would of course be a part of the plan, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Of the aforementioned locks, the first 3 weren’t a mystery in the least. Grilli was also fairly assured of a spot because he’s a Leyland favorite. But Zach Miner wasn’t a given in my mind. Not that Miner isn’t deserving, but that his option status afforded the team some flexibility that Denny Bautista, Yorman Bazardo, and Francisco Cruceta couldn’t. And while it would really be a blow for Miner to go to Toledo, there’s a very strong likelihood that injury or ineffectiveness would lead to a call-up at some point.

Given that Cruceta hasn’t even made it into the country yet, he of course has to be considered a very long shot at this point. However, his visa struggles could play to the Tigers advantage in that he could probably clear waivers while MIA.

With Rodney likely to start the year on the DL, it will give the Tigers a chance to take an extended look at Bautista and Bazardo. Neither could be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. Officially Preston Larrison and Aquilino Lopez are still in the mix, as is Freddy Dolsi. But it wouldn’t make practical sense to take them at the expense of risking the loss of some valuable bullpen depth.

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  1. Eric Cioe

    March 13, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    I don’t think this pen looks bad. I’d trust any of them with a 3 run or bigger lead. A few of them I’d even trust with a 1 run lead – Seay, Rodney, and whoever ends up best of Bautista/Bazardo/Miner. Oh, and Jones, so long as he’s coming on with only 3 outs till the end.

  2. David

    March 13, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Yea I agree

    The one thing I think we need is for one dominant Leyland favored reliever

    of course you want all the guys to be good but in ’06 we tended to lean on Zumaya and before that on Farnsworth – there were almost automatic

    I’m hoping one of our non-flamethrower guys can do that (my picks would be either Miner or Seay)

    I’m only a big fan of Jones when he isn’t pitching, he’s a good cheerleader, and very quotable but makes me want to turn off the TV/leave the park when he is in the game

    My hope is that he is as good as he was last year – would be greedy to ask for anything more.

  3. Adam

    March 14, 2008 at 12:15 am

    I’m pulling hard for Bautista, as long as he can get his control down. So far it looks good, and I love a tall guy whose fastball touches 100.

  4. ivantopumpyouup

    March 14, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Oh no, not Mirabelli. Unless the Tigers are planning on bringing Steve Sparks out of retirement.

  5. Ryan in Brooklyn

    March 14, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Question about waivers/options/etc.

    If the Tigers were to send Cruceta to the minors and he cleared waivers, does that mean he’s free to come and go freely from Toledo all year? Or would he have to clear waivers every time they tried to send him back down?

    In other words, once he’s cleared waivers once, does he, in effect, regain his option?

    I’m in agreement that they ought to try to sneak him through waivers now, before he sorts out his immigration troubles. No team is going to want to commit a roster spot to someone who’s locked out of the country indefinitely. Just curious what his status would be beyond that.

  6. billfer

    March 14, 2008 at 9:26 am

    He can’t regain the option. The Tigers would be removing him from the 40 man roster. He could stay in the minors until he was recalled, at which point he’d need to be added to the 40 man again.

  7. David G.

    March 14, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Another question on the 40 man. Does everyone on it accrue service time, or do you actually have to be in the Majors? I am asking with regard to Porcello, primarily.

  8. ez

    March 14, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Cruceta’s visa looks like a nightmare. I checked the website and the only good news is that he gets to go to the consulate in Santo Domingo, the capital of the DR. In some countries you have to go to another countries U.S. Embassy to get visas… In other words it takes a passport and a visa to get a visa….

    I have no idea how long the Tigers have been working on his Visa…. but if they just started the process in January then you aren’t going to see Cruceta for a while…. If they started before January then I hope they remembered to resend in the Visa fees. Because the fees went up and the old check sent will be returned. Back to the end of the line you go… Welcome to visa hell:

    Here is to hoping Barzado and Bautista become the Killer B’s. Rodney and Cruceta both look to be out for a while… Though with fingers crossed (no jinx, no jinx, no jinx) Bautista is reminding me of Zoom in ST ’06….

    Man, I hope I am wrong on this visa info, but having recently been through it, it took 6 months longer than expected and I was working with an immigration attorney…

  9. David G.

    March 14, 2008 at 10:10 am

    It seems silly that MLB does not have SOME sort of fast tracking for this kind of stuff.

  10. ez

    March 14, 2008 at 10:23 am

    There were ‘fast-tracks’ in the days of the INS. A team with will (like Ilitch has), money, and lawyers could get this done in no time. That is why most media beat writers think that Cruceta is only a week away. Now that the INS is folded into the DOH there are no short cuts available anymore. When it comes to the Department Of Homeland Security no special treatment is available. EVER. I’ll save the political debate…. We are only talking of our beloved Kitties. And in those terms it is no surprise to me that Cruceta is already one month over due…

    Cruceta’s problems probably began before he became a Tiger. You don’t see any Tiger’s with this problem, and we have many visa players: Polly, Maggs, Santiago, Guillen, Rodney, even German back in his days … Pudge is diferent because he is from Puerto Rico (a U.S. Protectorate)

    Oddly, I really think if he were defecting from Cuba and going through the State Department he would have already been here….

  11. Tbone

    March 14, 2008 at 10:53 am

    That bullpen lineup doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence in my eyes. My stomach is already turning at the first thought of Jason Grilli coming in to hang on to a lead.

  12. Chris in Dallas

    March 14, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Service time only accrues when you are on the 25 man roster, not the 40 man.

    Good to see Miner got the vote of confidence from Leyland. Options or no, he’s got a good arm and decent track record thus far. The bullpen is better with him than without. I also think Bazardo *has* to make the club. There’s no way he’d make it through waivers, and he’s a hell of a talent in my view.

  13. Coach Jim

    March 14, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I’m surprised at how lowly Zach Miner is regarded in Detroit. This guy would be a #2 or 3 starter on many teams.

  14. Mark in Chicago

    March 14, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    My contrarian alarm bells are going off like crazy. I am going out on a limb and calling for a really good year from Jason Grilli. I’m buying low on him.

    My guess is Miner is only a lock until Rodney returns, because of the option situation. When FR does come back, Miner goes down or they try to pass Bazardo/Bautista through waivers (if one of them is ineffective).

    Until they prove it, I am not comfortable with anyone in that pen holding a 1-run lead.

  15. Eric Cioe

    March 14, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Seay proved he can hold a 1 run lead last season when he allowed 15% of inherited baserunners to score. That was top 3 in the AL.

  16. Mith

    March 14, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Coach Jim, its tough to take you seriously when you make comments like that!!! I like Miner and think he could be a dependable reliever. But its hard to see him as anything better than a #4 or #5 starter pretty much anywhere.

  17. David

    March 14, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Miner a #2 or 3? I dont know about that, but I’ve always been a fan of his

    Oh btw

    Jurrjens, Miller and Maybin have all been doing quite well this spring…

    I saw one of Jurrjens starts and it made me sad =(

  18. David

    March 14, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    FINALLY INGE IS PLAYING SS – I wish I had the mlb package

  19. Adam

    March 14, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    No you don’t. The game got rained out after the first inning. And then there was this fairly interesting documentary about Japanese Baseball that they cut short to tell us the game was over and that MLB.TV hates us.