Another wild day in Lakeland

News has been flying out of the Tigers camp fast and furious lately. Today the main topics of discussion are Dontrelle Willis, Clete Thomas, and Tim Byrdak.

Dontrelle Willis

Willis is struggling. He’s having a heck of a time finding the plate. His problem last year was control, and that had to do with missing his spots. But right now he’s missing the strike zone with 4 more walks, a HBP, and a wild pitch in a miserable 3 inning outing.

I don’t put a lot of stock in spring training numbers, but something is wrong here. It’s at the point in the spring where pitchers have moved beyond “working on things” to a large extent. It is time to be concerned because Willis’s last two starts have been bad.

Ian speculated about an injury following Dontrelle’s last start. I sincerely hope he’s not trying to pitch through an injury all of 0 games into a 3 year contract. If it’s not an injury, it’s on Chuck Hernandez to figure out the problem.

Clete Thomas

It sounds as if Thomas may have played himself on to the roster, well the injury to Granderson was the catalyst of course. Jon Paul Morosi reports that Thomas has a shot at coming North. The 24 year old out of Auburn was the Tigers 6th round pick in 2005. Last year he posted a solid 280/359/405 line for Erie.

If he does make the roster it would be over Freddy Guzman which would be surprising. Guzman has had a good spring, is on the 40 man roster, and is out of options (though he’s not really a threat to be plucked off of waivers). Timo Perez who was in the mix was cut, along with Mike Hessman yesterday.

Tim Byrdak aftermath

We’ve already discussed the Byrdak release, but the beats have some more info. Danny Knobler has some quotes from Jim Leyland, including the fact that he’d like it a lot of if there was a second lefty.

My guess is that a trade happens in the next two days. I’m not sure for who, but I think that the Tigers would be parting ways with Ryan Raburn. It’s not a scenario I’m particularly fond of, but that’s my idle speculation.

Also, my initial speculation that something happened behind the scenes was probably too ominous. It could simply be that the Tigers gave him his outright release so that he’d be free to sign with any other team, in essence doing him a favor.


  1. Eric Jackson

    March 26, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    I’d be shocked to see Thomas go north. He has far from proven himself and he’s seen only 23 AB’s. Most of the games he has only come in as a late-inning pinch runner or defensive replacement.

    I think JPM is way off on this one.

  2. Eric Cioe

    March 26, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    You have to hope Byrdak ends up signing with Toledo and gets his issues worked out. He was dominant at points last year, and having a strikeout lefty in the pen is nice.

    But then again, having strikeout pitchers in the pen is a good thing no matter what side he throws from. Because of this, I hope they don’t end up with another lefty unless they are better than any of the righty options there are – Bazardo, Lopez, and maybe even a guy like Fein.

    I don’t think they should make a trade yet. Let one of these seven guys prove he sucks before doing anything dumb like letting Raburn go. The seven I’m guessing have the spots right now are Jones, Bautista, Seay, Grilli, Miner, Bazardo, and Lopez. I don’t think that’s an awful pen, and I don’t think that we should be so worried about it when most of these guys have had good springs. Just because Bautista, Seay, Miner, and Bazardo aren’t big names doesn’t mean they can’t and won’t get big outs. I’d prefer that they let these guys pitch themselves out of a job, on a short leash, before trading Thames or Raburn or whoever.

  3. Kathy

    March 26, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Clete Thomas? Haven’t really heard much about him til now. However, I do feel kinda bad for Dontrelle. Something must be wrong. Tired arm? That’s always good for a few weeks off. They just can’t keep letting him go on the way he is. Kind of hate to see Timo go, too, although I know I’m in the minority on this one. He got his hit today, though. Thames, Raburn, Guzman must be going nuts about now.

  4. Michael Smith

    March 27, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Dontrelle Willis flat out terrifies me right now. I hope he gets things worked out quickly and gets back on track.

  5. Tbone

    March 27, 2008 at 9:42 am

    This whole pitching staff scares the bejeezus out of me right now. We have a legitimate ace and major question marks with the rest of the starters and up and down the pen.

    I hope I’m wrong but I can’t help to think we are going to see a fair share of football scores at Comerica this season.

  6. Mark

    March 27, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Your ‘idle speculation’ is wrong, once again.

    Raburn = not going anywhere.
    Guzman makes the team. Thomas does not.

  7. Walt at CMU

    March 27, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Mark has spoken.

  8. billfer

    March 27, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Your ‘idle speculation’ is wrong, once again.

    Raburn = not going anywhere.
    Guzman makes the team. Thomas does not.


    I very well may be wrong – and as you point out it wouldn’t be the first time. But I have 2 days yet before I’m officially wrong unless you know something I don’t.

  9. BaseballinDC

    March 27, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Thanks for keeping us up to date, Billfer.

    A few thoughts:

    (1) Illitch and co. are spending far too much $$$ NOT to get a lefty reliever or whoever else Leyland thinks he needs in the pen.

    What’s the point of giving Cabrara and everyone else so much dough unless you spend a little bit extra to get the last piece in place. Sort of like spending a ton on a new master bath, but then saving a few bucks on a really chintzy sink. That’s all people will see when they look around.

    Reminds of the Yawkey Red Sox – a lot of Cadillacs in the parking lot and no WS to show for it.

    (2) I thought letting Walker go was a mistake. Now I think it was a major blunder.

    (3) The starters will, I think, be very good this year and they’ll need to eat innings because no lead will be safe with the bullpen, including Todd Jones.

  10. Walt at CMU

    March 27, 2008 at 11:27 am

    It looks like Guzman is on waivers now.

  11. Chris in Dallas

    March 27, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Letting Walker go was *not* a blunder. Seay and Byrdak filled the same role with equal or better results. Granted now Byrdak is gone, but Seay remains and should do fine. At his age and price tag, Walker had exactly zero upside.

  12. Joel in Seattle

    March 27, 2008 at 1:21 pm


    It’s not just about money right now… there’s not a lot of talent out there on the waiver wire. The problem now is we have to give up guys, and we don’t have a lot of extra ones lying around that other teams want.

  13. Kevin in Austin

    March 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Walker was great, but letting him go at that price was just fine. What’s he making this year, $4M? I’m 100% on board with BinDCs point about spending money for all that offense and then being one little piece away. Seems like a no brainer that they’ll bring in another piece in the pen.

    Of course, this assumes that the front office feels they need one. We’ve been round and round on this over the last week. Seems like 1/2 of us would rather run Bugs Bunny out there, and the other 1/2 think that we’ve got enough as it stands. Should make for some lively finger pointing throughout the year.

    Also, Walt at CMU really ripped a gaping hole in Mark’s post. I’m anxious to see the next one.

  14. Rick G

    March 27, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Letting Walker go was probably not a blunder, but it was a mistake nonetheless.

    Walker’s ERA the last 6 years: 3.71, 3.32, 3.20, 3.70, 2.81, 3.23 (while pitching at least 43 innings each year).

    Seay and Byrdak both had career years last year
    Byrdak=3.20 ERA, never below 4.05 before that,
    Seay=2.33 ERA while pitching twice as many innings (46) as he ever had before – though he did have a 2.38 ERA
    in 2004 for Tampa in 22 innings.

    Seay will probably be pretty good this year, but it’s far less certain than Walker would be. Seay’s younger than Walker, (29 vs. 36) but you don’t really look at situational lefties for upside.

    Walker for $4mil/year would look pretty good right now, wouldn’t he? Especially when you didn’t have to trade anyone to have him. (It’s easy to say when it’s not my money!)

    This team will probably hit their way to 90+ wins no matter what. But there is plenty of time to pick up a reliever at the trade deadline if they need one – no reason to panic now and make a bad trade, especially dealing away more young talent.

  15. Eric Cioe

    March 27, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    If we don’t make the post season, it won’t be because we didn’t have a good situational lefty.

  16. Chris in Dallas

    March 27, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Kevin: Bugs Bunny threw a hell of a changeup…

  17. Sam

    March 27, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Let’s not hyperventilate.

    We are fine with one lefty in the pen. I would rather keep Bazardo (out of options), Bautista (out of options – great Spring) and Lopez (great spring) instead of Byrdak.

    A lot of manager’s overmanage using LOOGY’s anyway.

    The pen is now:

    Who do you cut for a replacement level LOOGY??


  18. Rick G

    March 27, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Normally, I’d agree with Eric regarding the role of a Seay or Walker, but the absence of Rodney and Zumaya, and the perennial uncertainty of Jones puts pressure on every other pitcher.

    Plus, we play 54 games against teams with Sizemore, Hafner, Morneau, Mauer, and Thome. I’d rather have another solid lefty on the roster than to have to trot the cheese man out there in a tight spot to face one of those five. 🙁

  19. BaseballinDC

    March 28, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Rick G’s analysis is spot on – unsurprising that those who think trading Walker was a dandy idea don’t bother to post any #s.

    I’m not advocating anything hasty here – just that the Tigers shouldn’t settle for the team they currently have if they get the opportunity to upgrade the bull pen. Next, we DO have guys. The question is what there is available for them, but there’s usually a deal that can be made with enough money to sweeten it. I agree with Rick that later in the season will probably reveal some better deals, and we’ll be able to assess what we need. Again, as he points out, Seay and Byrdyk had abnormal years last year. You better believe if Leyland could get Walker for $4m this season, he’d jump at it.

    The REAL waste would be to spend what they have and not have anything to show for it. Things will probably shake out in July as the trading deadline approaches, and teams that need to rebuild become more willing to part with current talent.