Porcello and Perry make the team

It appears the Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry will be breaking camp with the Tigers. Details are still thin beyond that. I’ll update as more information floats North. Also, Mike Hessman was placed on outright waivers and Ryan Raburn was optioned to Toledo. That leaves 29 players in camp including Scott Williamson, Brent Clevlen, Jeff Larish, Eddie Bonine, Juan Rincon, Zach Miner, and Nate Robertson battling for one spot in the rotation, a couple in the pen, and one on the bench.

UPDATE: Juan Rincon and Eddie Bonine are also in. Dane Sardhina and Scott Williamson were assigned to minor league camp.

UPDATE 2: Clay Rapada was optioned to Toledo and your second lefty in the pen is Nate Robertson. It’s down to Brent Clevlen and Jeff Larish for the last roster spot.

So…the pitching staff looks like this:

Rotation: Verlander/Jackson/Miner/Porcello/Galarraga (I’m guessing on the order to start the season)
Bullpen: Lyon/Rodney/Seay/Rincon/Perry/Bonine/Robertson

Let the offseason begin

With the World Series officially over after the longest game 5 ever, I half (actually more than half) expected the Tigers to make a trade today.  When I saw a press release come across I thought my intuition was correct.  Instead it was a compilation of roster moves and the hiring of a bullpen coach.

The Tigers rehired Jeff Jones to be the bullpen coach after firing him at the end of the season.  I don’t find it that surprising or awkward.  Jones had been all but assured a role in the organization and his firing was more related to the dismissal of Chuck Hernandez.  I’d imagine Rick Knapp had the freedom to look elsewhere, but decided to stick with Jones.

The Tigers also announced that Dane Sardinha and Gary Glover had been outrighted and both decided to  become free agents.  As I imagined when Virgil Vasquez was claimed, he was one of several the team were pruning.  Eddie speculates on the motivation for the Tigers keeping Eddie Bonine and Mike Hessman on the big league roster.

Another spot on the 40 man roster was freed when the Tigers formally declined Edgar Renteria’s option.  This is hardly news though since Dave Dombrowki indicated as much a month ago. 

Declaring free agency was Freddy Garcia.  Garcia is still in the long toss stage after leaving the last game of the year with tightness in his greater shoulder area.  Don’t read too much into this as it is merely a formality. 

In addition to the Tigers getting their house in order, there is speculation about potential targets.  Jason Varitek’s name has gained some steam.  Mostly due to a Ken Rosenthal report that Scott Boras is shopping Varitek to Detroit.  But I have to agree with the consensus that this would not be a good thing.

Now Chad Cordero on the other hand…that’s worth considering for the right price.  And while the Tigers, like many teams, would be hesitant to offer much in the way of guaranteed money they can offer a wide open bullpen situation.

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.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 5-12-08

Toledo 6 Charlotte 5
Dontrelle Willis made a rehab start and he struggled. He walked 3 and allowed 7 hits in 5.2 innings including 2 homers. He threw 46 of his 79 pitches for strikes. Mike Hessman and Jeff Larish homered again, and Mike Hollimon joined in on the fun.

Erie DNP

Lakeland 6 Tampa 2 11 innings
Mike Bertram had two hits. Duane Below fanned 10 in 7.1 innings while walking one and allowing 2 runs.

West Michigan 1 Fort Wayne 2
Kyle Peter had 2 hits. Lauren Gagnier went 7 innings and allowed 2 runs on 6 hits, no walks, and 7 K’s.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 5-10-08

Charlotte 3 Toledo 5
Mike Hessman and Clete Thomas homered. Brent Clevlen had 3 hits pushing his line to 313/376/563. Casey Fossum got the win allowing 1 run in 6 innings on 3 hits. Blaine Neal allowed 2 homers in one inning of relief.

Toledo 1 Charlotte 4
Mike Hessman homered and had one of only 3 hits. Virgil Vasquez went 5 innings and allowed 4 runs on 9 hits with 1 walk and 3 K’s.

Harrisburg 9 Erie 0
Wil Rhymes went 2 for 4. Ben Fritz allowed 8 runs on 9 hits in 6 innings. He walked none and fanned 6.

Vero Beach 2 Lakeland 6
James Skelton went 3 for 4 with his first homer of the year. Scott Sizemore and Ryan Strieby each had 2 hits. Rick Porcello allowed 2 unearned runs in 5 innings on 3 hits. He walked only one, but also struck out only one.

Lansing 2 West Michigan 4

Kyle Peter and Justin Henry each had 2 hits. Manny Miguelez fanned 8 over 7 innings while allowing just 1 run on 4 hits.

Roster Moves

The Tigers made a number of roster moves including Brandon Hamilton joining the Whitecaps from EST. A promotion for a VSL product. And Luis Marte earning his way to Erie. Detroit Tigers Thoughts and Take 75 North break it all down.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 5-9-08

Toledo 8 Charlotte 1
The power duo of Mike Hessman and Jeff Larish were at it again. Hessman had two homers and Larish had one. Larish added two walks and Hessman added a single. Clete Thomas had two assists gunning down a runner at third and home. Eddie Bonine pitched a complete game on 104 pitches fanning 5, walking 1, and allowing 8 hits.

Harrisburg 4 Erie 3
Wilkin Ramirez singled and homered. Lucas French went 8 innings and allowed 1 run on 2 walks and 2 strike outs. Casey Fien blew the save allowing 3 runs on 2 hits, and two walks despite fanning 3.

Vero Beach 5 Lakeland 2
Cale Iorg singled and walked and stole 2 bases. Luis Marte fanned 6 and walked 1 while allowing 3 runs over 6 innings.

West Michigan 3 Lansing 7
Chris Carlson was a triple short of the cycle. Alfredo Figaro went 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, a walk, and 5 K’s. Noah Krol didn’t record an out but allowed 4 runs.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 4-8-2008

Charlotte 9 Toledo 7
Ryan Raburn homered and knocked in 3 while Mike Hessman doubled and tripled. Brent Clevlen went 3 for 4 and continues a promising start to his season. Matt Joyce hit his second homer of the year to go along with a walk. Virgil Vasquez was knocked around for 7 hits but limited the damage to 2 runs while fanning 6 in 5 innings. Clay Rapada and Preston Larrison combined to allow 6 runs in 3 innings.

Erie 3 Harrisburg 2
Wil Rhymes 3 run homer was the offense. Wilkin Ramirez doubled and walked. Josh Rainwater went 5 2/3 innings allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, no walks, and 6 K’s. Brett Jensen recorded his first save of the season with a scoreless 9th inning.

Lakeland 3 Sarasota 7
Rick Porcello made his 2nd start and was excellent again. He was tagged for 4 runs, but all were unearned and came in a 3 error 4th inning. He allowed 4 hits, one of which was an infield single, while fanning 4 and walking none. Cale Iorg, who made 2 errors, went 3 for 5. James Skelton and Scott Sizemore each added 2 hits.

Great Lakes 5 West Michigan 1
Kyle Peter doubled and walked and Jordan Newton added 2 singles. Ramon Garcia gave up all 5 runs on 7 hits, no walks,and 6 K’s over 6 innings. Wilton Garcia fanned 4 in 2 scoreless innings of relief.

Back-up plans

The Tigers are fortunate to not have any positions really up in the air when they head to spring training. At least not for the starters. The bench on the other hand has a number of candidates competing for limited spots. Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, Freddy Guzman, Mike Hessman, and Ramon Santiago are all gunning for what amounts to 3 bench positions. How will it shake out?

Let’s start with some assumptions. These could be wrong, or you may disagree, but this is where I’m starting from:

  • Brandon Inge will break camp with the team
  • Vance Wilson will not have to start the season on the DL
  • Marcus Thames doesn’t get traded

Those assumptions leave very little wiggle room. With a bench of only 4 players that leaves only one spot up in the air.

Position Starter Backup Backup
C Pudge Wilson Inge
1B Guillen Thames Cabrera
2B Polanco ???
3B Cabrera Inge
SS Renteria Guillen Inge??
LF Jones Thames Sheffield
CF Granderson Jones Inge
RF Ordonez Sheffield Thames

The only position where the Tigers don’t have an established player to back-up is second base. I thought about penciling Inge in there, but seeing as he has never played the position and he’ll be busy re-learning to catch, that position provides the least amount of comfort. With that in mind that last spot likely goes to either Ramon Santiago or Ryan Raburn.

The strengths and weaknesses of the bench candidates are below:

  • Marcus Thames: Thames has big time power, and other than 2007 has shown an ability to take a walk. He also has a new contract meaning that Thames is still in the team’s plans. The downside is that he plays the positions lowest on the defensive spectrum and he is another right handed bat. Still, Jacque Jones needs a platoon partner in left field and Thames would be the first choice.
  • Brandon Inge: Unlikely to be moved and both Inge and the team need him to re-establish his value. He becomes very important if Wilson isn’t available.
  • Ramon Santiago: A Jim Leyland favorite for his defense and a switch hitter. Or at least a batter who stands on both sides of the plate. Out of options, but probably not a big risk to be claimed on waivers either.
  • Ryan Raburn: Very versatile and has a better bat than you’ll typically see on the bench. But again, like the rest of the team he hits right handed. He has options which could work against him, though it probably shouldn’t.
  • Mike Hessman: Excellent defender at the corners, but yet another right handed bat. Leyland seemed to take a liking to him, but he has serious contact issues. Short of an injury to a corner player, I don’t see a way the Tigers could justify putting him on the 25 man roster.
  • Freddy Guzman: Guzman is out of options which could work to his advantage. Also to his advantage is that he’s a left handed hitter, and he’s fast. But he also plays outfield where the Tigers have some considerable depth already. He’s out of options though and has an outside shot of coming North, but he seems more like a September call up type of player.

If I’m responsible for the roster, I take Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, Vance Wilson, and Ryan Raburn given the assumptions above. Raburn would most likely end up thirsting for at-bats as the majority would go to Inge. Still, that bench gives you a pretty solid combination of offensive pop and defensive flexibility. This would require passing Freddy Guzman and Ramon Santiago through waivers though. Santiago has cleared a number of times and I don’t see that being a problem. As for Guzman, I’m not sure. The Rangers could claim him back I suppose, but I don’t see that as being too big of a concern.