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News » Detroit Tigers Roster Report 2009-03-29

Detroit Tigers Roster Report 2009-03-29

Detroit Tigers Roster Report 2009-03-29
The Tigers neared the end of spring training the same as they entered -- with unanswered questions about the state of the pitching staff. After RHPs Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Armando Galarraga, the club had no rotation candidate without significant question marks. RHP Jeremy Bonderman (injured), LHP Dontrelle Willis (control issues), LHP Nate Robertson (no fastball, inconsistent slider) and rookie RHP Rick Porcello (great stuff, no experience) all had issues. The bullpen was also unsettled from top to bottom. Defense will be improved with the addition of SS Adam Everett and the return to third of Brandon Inge, and the club should score enough runs. Robertson showed late signs of adapting to a Kenny Rogers style of pitching, which would help a great deal. If Porcello and fellow rookie RHP Ryan Perry don't open the season with the Tigers, they'll be up before the sun sets on May.


1. RHP Justin Verlander

2. RHP Edwin Jackson

3. RHP Armando Galarraga

4. RHP Jeremy Bonderman

5. LHP Nate Robertson

ROTATION ANALYSIS: Verlander made an adjustment to the way he lands (softening knee instead of landing stiff), and it seems to have taken -- he has looked more like the 35-game winner of his first two seasons than the 17-game loser he was last year. Jackson looks poised to take another big forward step in his career, while Galarraga might fall off from his excellent rookie year but still should be a winner.

Bonderman has had a problem-filled spring. First he had lingering shoulder soreness. Then, after that cleared up, his fastball topped out in the high 80s, and that won't let him be a dominating pitcher. Robertson strung together some scoreless innings toward the end of camp to claim a rotation spot, but it might take him more time to adjust to being Kenny Rogers instead of a hard thrower.

On merit, rookie RHP Rick Porcello should be on the Opening Day roster -- and Detroit would love to have him -- but the 125 innings he threw last summer mark the sum total of his pro experience. So the Tigers will probably play it cautiously but bring him up at the first opportunity. Another alternative is bringing RHP Zach Miner out of the bullpen again.

LHP Dontrelle Willis continues to have problems throwing strikes, making it hard for Detroit to avoid having to eat the last two years and $22 million of his contract.


RHP Brandon Lyon (closer)

RHP Fernando Rodney

LHP Bobby Seay

RHP Zach Miner

RHP Juan Rincon

RHP Scott Williamson

RHP Ryan Perry


Manager Jim Leyland hasn't designated either Lyon or Rodney as his closer, which might mean he doesn't have one, and will use both in save situations. Miner probably will be used in long relief to keep his arm stretched out in case he needs to return to the rotation.

RHP Joel Zumaya is expected to be on the disabled list to open the season but will bump someone when/if he's ready to pitch back-to-back games. Perry, a No. 1 2008 draft choice, is a strong possibility to take Zumaya's place as a mid- or late game shut-down pitcher. If the Tigers opt to go in another direction (LHP Dontrelle Willis, for example), Perry is certain to be up early in the season.

Rule 5 pick Kyle Bloom might stick if Detroit decides to jettison Willis, and LHP Clay Rapada is also in that mix. Rookie Casey Fien might be called up at some point if the veterans can't do the job.


1. CF Curtis Granderson

2. 2B Placido Polanco

3. RF Magglio Ordonez

4. 1B Miguel Cabrera

5. LF Carlos Guillen

6. DH Gary Sheffield

7. C Gerald Laird

8. 3B Brandon Inge

9. SS Adam Everett

LINEUP ANALYSIS: Predictions of 1,000 runs after Cabrera was obtained for the 2008 season proved to be wildly optimistic, but it's still an outfit that can thump.

Much will depend on what the bottom of the order can do, whether Sheffield can still be a threat, if Laird can approximate his road numbers (near .300) last year with Texas and whether Inge can re-learn how to hit the ball where it's pitched. If the last three hitters do nothing but make outs all season, it's going to be a long season.

Ordonez is reaching the point in his career where he might need more rest, and Guillen has had problems the last two years with his back, knees and hamstrings.

It's a lineup that will need to be "youthanized" soon -- but not quite yet. Jim Leyland is a manager who likes to use his bench a lot, and the number of aging veterans in this lineup makes that a necessity.


C Matt Treanor

LF Marcus Thames

INF Ramon Santiago

UT Ryan Raburn or INF Jeff Larish

RESERVES ANALYSIS: This is a bench with flaws. Treanor was dogged all spring by groin muscle problems blamed on his sports hernia surgery of last year, while Thames is barely an adequate fielder. Santiago is an excellent glove man with speed and a strong arm, but his tendency to get pull-happy sometimes hurts him.

There is no real strong backup for CF Curtis Granderson on the bench, although Raburn can play the position in a pinch. The best backup for Granderson is the third baseman, Brandon Inge, but manager Jim Leyland is loath to use that option.

Larish probably won't make the opening roster because he has options remaining and neither Thames nor Raburn does. Without Larish, though, the bench is devoid of a left-handed pinch-hitter, so it's likely the Tigers will wait until the time is right, then deal Thames or Raburn and bring up Larish for good.

OF Clete Thomas is a possibility for an in-season call-up because he can play all three outfield positions with skill and is a left-handed hitter.

ROOKIE WATCH: If the organization's last two No. 1 picks -- RHP Rick Porcello (2007) and RHP Ryan Perry (2008) -- don't make the Opening Day roster, they are certain to appear before midseason after both showed in spring training that talent can trump inexperience. INF-OF Jeff Larish impressed as a pinch-hitter during two brief trails last season and looked during spring training as if he could fill that role and more as soon as possible. He would provide the club badly needed left-handed punch. RHP Casey Fien will be ready if the bullpen needs help. LHP Casey Crosby (5th, 2007) is coming back from Tommy John surgery, throwing in the mid-90s, and is someone who could advance quickly despite only three games of rookie league experience late last year.


RHP Joel Zumaya (small right shoulder fracture that did not require surgery) has battled shoulder soreness this spring and is likely to open the season on the disabled list, remaining in camp to work minor league games until he shows he can pitch back-to-back games successfully.

RHP Jeremy Bonderman (right rib removal, blood clot surgery in June 2008) was scheduled to make his second start Sunday and needed to show a fastball above 90 mph to keep himself in the running to open the season with the Tigers. He could be placed on the disabled list and brought back slowly.

C Matt Treanor has battled groin muscle problems this spring, possibly related to his sports hernia surgery last fall. He is expected to open the season with Detroit.

OF Marcus Thames strained an abdominal muscle March 10 but returned to action after a week. His playing time has been cut because of the return of Detroit's three regular outfielders from their World Baseball Classic teams.

LHP Nate Robertson sprained his left thumb taking a throw March 25 in the first inning of his exhibition game start. His scheduled Monday start is in jeopardy but only by a day or two, and he's expected to be ready for the start of the season. The thumb was swollen but there was no break, X-rays disclosed.

SS Adam Everett sprained his left ankle sliding into second base in the first inning of the March 25 exhibition game and was expected to miss several days of action. The injury was not serious.

OF Clete Thomas, who had Tommy John surgery last Sept. 11, played in the field for the first time this spring March 25. His arm is not at full strength, but he's been long-tossing on a regular basis and is expected to be able to play when the minor league season begins.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: March 29, 2009

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