The Call-Ups

It’s September 1st, so it’s the annual rite of infusing of rosters with up and comers and AAA fill-ins. The Tigers announced their round of call-ups. They include: Dusty Ryan, Mike Hessman, Dontrelle Willis, Chris Lambert, Clay Rapada, and Freddy Dolsi.

Dolsi had some nice moments this season, is already on the 40 man roster, and could be a piece of the bullpen puzzle next year. He gets more evaluation time and can pitch some innings as the starters continue to falter. Ditto for Rapada.

Lambert is also a slam dunk, seeing as the Tigers will need to keep him on the 40 man roster if they are inclined to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Plus they need a 5th starter and they get a closer look at him.

Dusty Ryan has a legit shot at being the back-up next year, and like Lambert will be on the 40 man roster anyways. He’ll probably get a start or two before heading to the AFL.

Hessman hit a lot of homers and struck out a lot (139 times in 396 ABs). But he also plays a solid third base and the Tigers don’t have their regular third baseman. Chances are Hessman will be removed from the 40 at the end of the season.

As for Willis, who knows what will happen. He’ll pitch a simulated game tomorrow. But given his forearm issues, I don’t know if he’ll contribute anything.

As for the guys left out, Mike Hollimon, Brent Clevlen, Casey Fien, and Francisco Cruceta would seem to have been candidates. Hollimon struggled mightily once being sent back to AAA seeing his average drop to the low .200s. Fien and Cruceta were probably victims of roster machinations. Fien wouldn’t need to be added to protect him from the Rule 5, so it makes sense to defer his possible promotion to next spring. Clevlen is probably the biggest surprise. He will be out of options next year, and while he slumped late (.645 OPS in August) it wasn’t to the extent that Hollimon suffered.

Todd Jones back to the DL

Todd Jones is back on the disabled list. After 1 outing. Makes you wonder why he was brought off the DL in the first place doesn’t it? Of course it did take him a half hour to get out of that inning so that may explain it. Or perhaps Todd is toast and he’ll just finish the year on the DL instead of being outright released.

Oddly, Gary Glover had his contract purchased by the Tigers to fill Todd’s spot in the bullpen. Glover wasn’t even in the organization until last week when he was added to Toledo. Glover appeared in 29 games for the Rays this year with 18 walks and 22 strike outs in 34 innings. I don’t get this at all. Why not give Casey Fien a shot? Or bring back Francisco Cruceta who is striking out everybody in Toledo (or at least everybody he doesn’t walk) with 52 K’s and 20 walks in 36 innings? Or bring back Clay Rapada who is already using an option year and move Bobby Seay from lefty specialist to 7th inning guy.

I guess it’s better to give a handful of innings to a 31 year old journeyman pitcher who has wowed coaches in his 3 innings at Toledo. I’m sorry, there may be very valid roster management/option/service time issues at play here. I don’t get it though.

Another good outing for Zumaya

Joel Zumaya pitched a scoreless inning fanning 1 batter. He threw 11 pitches, 8 of which were strikes. He’s set to do back to back outings on Monday and Tuesday and if all goes well he’ll be back for the Padres series.

On another note, Francisco Cruceta also pitched a scoreless inning striking outtwo. Nine of his fourteen pitches went for strikes.

Tigers Minor Leauge Wrap 4-19-08

Louisville 5 Toledo 0
Curtis Granderson doubled and singled, and like the night before in Grand Rapids that was it for the highlights. Virgil Vasquez allowed 5 runs on 9 hits and 3 walks with only 1 K in 5.1 innings. Cassey Fossum went 2.2 innings allowing one hit while fanning 3.
Tata rehab
Jason Beck was in Toledo and said that there is still some concern about Granderson having to make a throw which he hasn’t yet on his assignment. Also, Francisco Cruceta is likely to join the Hens this week and Mike Hollimon isn’t too far away. Plus our friend Roger DeWitt found Jordan Tata throwing off a mound in Lakeland meaning his return should be close as well.

Erie 2 Alttona 3
Freddy Guzman tripled and singled. Deik Scram doubled and walked. Dan Christensen allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 k’s with one strike out over 6.2 innings. Casey Fien took the loss allowing a homer and 2 other hits in 1.1 innings of work.

Lakeland 0 Tampa 3
Porcello from 4-19-08 credit Roger DeWittRick Porcello went 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, a walk, and 4 strike outs. Lakeland only managed 3 hits. LFT Blog notes an interesting subplot and wonders whether Porcello was asked to throw at a hitter as retaliation for the hitter breaking up a no hitter with a bunt the night before.

Burlington 7 West Michigan 8
Ronnie Bourquin homered and singled. Roger Tomas and Adrian Cassanova each had 3 hits and a walk. Lauren Gagnier allowed 6 runs in 5.1 innings with 3 walks and 5 K’s. Rudy Darrow went 2 innings of relief fanning 3 and allowing 1 hit.

Department of Immigration relents – Cruceta is coming

International man of mystery, Francisco Cruceta, has finally been allowed into the country. His visa problems have kept him out of action and the country for the last two months. Jason Beck reports that Cruceta will head to Lakeland.

I’d imagine he spends a week or so in Florida before joining the Mud Hens, and perhaps the Tigers.

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.

Other stuff

Bullpen woes spawn trade talk

Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Tigers bullpen headaches have the team talking trade. Morosi notes that there have been “general discussions” with the Cubs. Chicago has become a favorite trading partner of Dombrowski with the two clubs completing five trades during DD’s tenure.

Morosi notes that the Cubs may be interested in a right handed hitter who could play center. Like maybe Inge. There is the Alan Trammell factor and a recommendation from the bench coach could come into play.

MLB Trade Rumors throws out the name Ryan Dempster as a potential target. Dempster will turn 31 and make $5.5 million this year, so for 2008 anyways the salaries would work out. Dempster fanned 7.43 per 9 innings last year while walking 4.05 per 9 and posting a 4.51 FIP. In other words he’s a poor man’s Jason Grilli (7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 3.85 FIP). Well, with some saves.

As for the current bullpen candidates, well, umm, yeah:

  • Matt Mantei’s arm went pop and he’s retiring and was released
  • Fernando Rodney threw for the first time today in a couple weeks. He made 15 throws from 60 feet. But that doesn’t provide a lot of hope at this point given his history.
  • Francisco Cruceta still hasn’t made it into the country.  At this point I wonder if the Tigers could get him through waivers.
  • And Todd Jones was rocked today for 6 runs in an inning.  But that’s probably less of a concern at this point.
  • At least Denny Bautista has looked good in his limited time with 3 scoreless innings.
  • I find it interesting that Yorman Bazardo has only thrown 1 inning. I thought he’d be a strong candidate to make the team given his option status.

Men in uniforms

Brandon Inge on first day of Spring Training
credit Roger DeWitt

The first day of official workouts. Now we’re rolling.

Link round up

Catching up with Inge – Detroit Tigers Insider – MLive.com
A TALE OF TWO CATCHERS
Jim Leyland addresses Brandon Inge’s future with Tigers
Leyland isn’t concerned about lineup, is concerned about bullpen
The Official Site of The Detroit Tigers: News: Notes: Porcello gets first taste

Inge on Inge and Leyland on Inge

In an effort to move things along and avoid having everyone answer the same questions over and over again, Jim Leyland and Brandon Inge held a mini-presser. The main message wasn’t anything new. Everybody wants Inge to be traded. It may or may not happen. Inge just wants to start and he won’t be a cancer. Leyland also stated that Vance Wilson’s progress wouldn’t be a factor in Inge being moved.

The most interesting quote though came from the Freep article.

“I went to work on my swing this off-season,” Inge said. “My swing was a little long. Cutting down strikeouts is crucial.”

Glad to hear some self awareness.

Remember when PFP was a big deal?

Rick Porcello and Bobby Seay

In non-Inge news the Tigers have some pitchers in camp as well. The first day of workouts means PFP, which was a circus last year.

Rick Porcello was put into Kenny Rogers pitchers-fielding-practice group, and it probably wasn’t by accident. Porcello marveled at Rogers, then again Porcello was probably marveling at quite a bit. He’s not even a full year removed from high school. Most of his friends are making spring break plans while Porcello went south to work out with a major league club.

The bullpen

Leyland is concerned about the bullpen and realizes how important talent evaluation will be this spring

“We have to do a better job than ever of projecting what a guy is going to do (in the regular season). We have to find out everything we can about their personalities and their understanding of what is going on.”

While normally there is quite a bit of flexibility in making some of these bullpen decisions, the option status of many of the candidates means that at least one player will be cut loose. And nobody wants to see the wrong guy jettisoned.

One of those guys in contention, Francisco Cruceta is a late arrival. He’s having visa issues getting into the country.

The Full Pen

We’ve taken a look at how the Tigers may, or at least how we think (and by we I mean I and the people who agree with me) they may fill out their bench. The bench is one of the few areas of ambiguity in terms of the roster. The other area is the bullpen.

Unlike with the bench, there aren’t too many assumptions to clarify. The only tenet is that the pen will most likely have 7 pitchers and I don’t think that is really up for too much debate. The only way I see that deviating, and even then it’s not very likely, is if Vance Wilson is injured and Brandon Inge serves as the super-sub and back-up catcher and Leyland carries 8 bullpen arms.

Here’s a quick stratification of the options:

Sure Things: Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney.
Not quite sure things but pretty likely: Bobby Seay and Tim Byrdak
Everyone else: Danny Bautista, Yorman Bazardo, Francisco Cruceta, Jason Grilli, Matt Mantei, Macay McBride, Zach Miner, Clay Rapada, Jordan Tata
Maybe in August: Joel Zumaya

The sure things aren’t really worth discussing, at least not now. And while the nomenclature of “sure thing” and Todd Jones may be tough to swallow, he is a lock in terms of his roster status. Byrdak and Seay would probably have to pitch very poorly or very injured this spring to not make the team. Both lefties had solid campaigns last year and Leyland likes carrying 2 southpaw options.

As for everyone else, we’ll go in alphabetical order. Looking at the circumstances, option status will likely to be the driving factor in how the last 3 members are chosen. Eddie has done an excellent job writing up an Options tutorial as well as looking at what those implications could be for the Tigers.
Continue reading The Full Pen

Baseball America’s 2008 Tigers Prospect List

There isn’t an official top prospect list, but BA’s is kind of the standard. Today they announced the Tigers 2008 top 10

  1. Rick Porcello, rhp
  2. Cale Iorg, ss
  3. Scott Sizemore, 2b
  4. Michael Hollimon, 2b/ss
  5. Yorman Bazardo, rhp
  6. Jeff Larish, 1b
  7. Matt Joyce, of
  8. Danny Worth, ss
  9. Francisco Cruceta, rhp
  10. Brandon Hamilton, rhp

Rick Porcello is the clear cut stud, but after that things get cloudy. I’m surprised to see Cale Iorg rated so highly. While he may have all the tools, those tools haven’t really even been on display for several years. Plus a hamstring injury in the Hawaiian Winter League added to the lack of exposure to competitive baseball.I have a hard time rating him that highly, at least this year.

I’m also surprised to see Scott Sizemore rated number 3. While I like what Sizemore has done, the AFL is his only exposre to players in his age range.

The rest of the list is pretty much in line with who’d you would expect to see. As for the order, I don’t think there is a lot of separation so the composition is probably more important than the ranking.

There are write-ups on the top 10, but they are premium content. I will point out a couple of items though:

Bazardo

It would come as no surprise if he opened the season as Detroit’s fifth starter.

I’d be quite surprised given the rotation is set barring injury. I do like him as the 6th starter though and do expect him to make the team. (edit: in his chat, Morosi indicated that was written before the Willis trade)

Hollimon:

Second base would be his best position, but the Tigers have Placido Polanco under contract through 2009. Hollimon is athletic enough to play in the outfield, but Detroit has no plans to move him there this year in Triple-A.

Hadn’t heard him listed as a potential outfielder before.

Joyce:

Joyce has moved swiftly since signing in 2005, and he’ll move up to Triple-A this season. If all goes well, he’ll challenge for a big league job in 2009.

I’d like to see him at AAA, but with Timo Perez, Freddy Guzman, and Brent Clevlen the outfield appears full.
Worth:

Worth will return to Lakeland or Erie to begin 2008 and could move quickly in a system that lacks depth at shortstop in the upper minors.

Brent Dlugach, Tony Giarratano, and Hollimon figure to provide depth. Not that Dlugach should block anybody, but he’s still depth. Plus Tony G is still on the 40 man.

Rogers, Rumors, and the Winter Meetings

The Winter Meetings kicked off today. My fellow bloggers have already commented on how it will be a fairly quiet meetings for the Tigers. That’s what happens when you fill your biggest needs within a couple weeks of the end of the season.

Still, I don’t think the Tigers are done this offseason. While I don’t expect big moves from Detroit during the Winter Meetings, there is still work to be done. The Tigers still have a number of players to tender contracts to. There are currently only 16 members of the team who are signed, and likely to be on the 25 man roster. At least two of those players could be in for a substantial payday.

Curtis Granderson is entering his last year of indentured servitude. The Tigers could sign him for half a million and be done with it. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a 5 year deal which would buy him out of his arbitration years and first year of free agency. That would gain the team cost certainty through 2012 which also coincide with the years where he figures to be in his prime.
Continue reading Rogers, Rumors, and the Winter Meetings