MLB Team Report - Detroit Tigers - INSIDE PITCH
Detroit Tigers officials say they will replace injured shortstop Jose Iglesias in-house -- which now includes newly acquired infielders Andrew Romine and Alex Gonzalez.
The Tigers shipped spot-starting lefty Jose Alvarez to the Los Angeles Angels on March 21 for Romine with the expectation the infielder would be part of a shortstop platoon.
"We talked about having a shortstop that can catch the ball and run a little bit," Tigers manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He fits the description.
"We look for him to be on our big-league club and part of the (shortstop) mix. How else we'll go, I'm not sure at this point."
Three days later, Dombrowski picked up veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez from the Baltimore Orioles for utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi.
Gonzalez, 37, has played only 27 games at shortstop the past two seasons and hit .177 in 41 games with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013, primarily as a first baseman.
"I just know they lost Iglesias and are looking for somebody else," Gonzalez said after the deal was announced.
In addition to learning that Iglesias will be out for most, if not all, of this season due to stress fractures in both shins, Detroit got a double-dose of bad injury news when it announced March 21 that erstwhile setup man Bruce Rondon will miss the season due to impending Tommy John surgery.
During Iglesias' rehab, he will be limited to swimming and light bicycle riding for conditioning. He will be re-examined in four months to determine whether he can resume baseball work, after which it would be about another month (deep into August) before he can return to the Tigers.
"That late into the year, my thought process is that it would be more unlikely than likely (that Iglesias will play again this season)," Dombrowski said. "My understanding, though, is that he will be fine for next season."
MLB Team Report - Detroit Tigers - NOTES, QUOTES
--RHP Max Scherzer and the Tigers ended talks on a contract extension, and discussions won't resume during the season. The announcement by the team essentially guarantees Scherzer will become a free agent at season's end.
GM Dave Dombrowski spoke with reporters March 23, saying that the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner was given a "substantial offer." Once that offer was declined, the two sides agreed to end talks for the spring.
--RHP Bruce Rondon, who just seemed to be emerging as the kind of late-inning force Detroit hoped he would be last spring, will be lost to the Tigers this season due to an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery soon. Rondon recently complained of elbow soreness, and an exam showed he will need to have the ligament in his right elbow replaced. Rondon had a 1.29 ERA in seven spring appearances. "We've had a lot of injury issues this spring," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said, "but that's why you try to build depth if you possibly can. We have some guys who will have to step up." Dombrowski indicated the Tigers will try to fill Rondon's projected role as the setup man internally. It could open the way for RHP Evan Reed, who is out of options and is having a good spring, to make the roster. "(Rondon) just came in one day and said he was a little tender," Dombrowski said. "At that point, we figured he should see a doctor. Before that, he hadn't complained of any problems at all. Our goal at this time is to handle it (the replacement) internally."
--SS Jose Iglesias is out for 4-6 months with stress fractures in both shins, and Detroit is anticipating the flashy shortstop won't be able to play all season. "Jose's activity will be limited to non-weight-bearing conditioning, such as biking and swimming, for the next 4-6 months," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He will be reevaluated at the four-month mark." Even if he is cleared to resume baseball after four months, it will be at least another month before he is ready to resume his position with the Tigers. "That late into the year, my thought process is that it would be more unlikely than likely (that Iglesias will play again this season)," Dombrowski said. "My understanding, though, is that he will be fine for next season." Iglesias played with shin splints most of last season but was able to play just one exhibition game before getting shut down.
--SS Danny Worth, in camp on a non-roster invitation, is a leading candidate to replace injured SS Jose Iglesias for the Tigers. Worth, 28, has had a career marked by aliments and injuries and was removed from the 40-man roster during the winter to make room for LF Rajai Davis. Worth has a .242 batting average in 115 games with Detroit and is a career .248 hitter in the minors. "He's got the most experience playing at the big league level, played shortstop at the big league level," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He probably wouldn't be as star struck by the big stage." "It's not a different feel (from last spring, when he was cut at the end of camp)," Worth said. "If anything, I feel less of it from last year, just because I know all the stuff that can happen. I don't read too much into it or think about it too much. I'm just trying to get ready for the year. There's still a lot of spring left. Anything can happen."
--INF Andrew Romine, 28, was acquired by Detroit on March 21 from the Los Angeles Angels in return for LHP Jose Alvarez. The switch-hitting Romine is a .250 career hitter with no home runs and 11 RBIs in 152 Major League at-bats, 108 coming last year for the Angels. The intention now is to have Romine combine with another shortstop to fill in for injured SS Jose Iglesias. "We talked about having a shortstop that can catch the ball and run a little bit," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He fits the description. We look for him to be on our big-league club and part of the (shortstop) mix. How else we'll go, I'm not sure at this point. We feel comfortable this is a good solution for us with the mix of other guys we have. It gives us a left-handed hitter, so he fits what we need for our ball club." Dombrowski added he did not feel Romine is an everyday shortstop. "Could he be? Perhaps, but we look at him more as a guy who can play 3-4 days a week," Dombrowski said.
--2B/SS Hernan Perez could play shortstop if Detroit decided to use him as part of the replacement mix for injured SS Jose Iglesias, out at least 4-6 months with shin stress fractures. Perez has filled in for Detroit briefly over the last two seasons but has had problems breaching .200 at the plate. The Tigers see him more as a second baseman, if he can cure his tendency to chase outside breaking balls.
--SS Eugenio Suarez might be the best defensive candidate to replace injured SS Jose Iglesias if Detroit decides to take the best pure defensive player in its organization. But general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated following the acquisition of INF Andrew Romine that Suarez was a long shot to make the team. Suarez blossomed at the plate at high Class A Lakeland last season (.311) but slipped to .253 when promoted to Double-A Erie. He was slated to play shortstop this year at Triple-A Toledo, with 2B Hernan Perez beside him. Suarez had not made much of an impression at the plate in Spring Training.
--RHP Anibal Sanchez missed a start March 18 with some soreness in the back of his right shoulder, the same ailment that shut him down for three weeks last summer. Sanchez received a cortisone injection to calm the inflammation and felt fine throwing a bullpen March 20. He was scheduled to start March 24 in a game at minor league camp. "If everything goes according to plan," manager Brad Ausmus said, "we can still get him up to around 100 pitches in his last (spring) start."
--RHP Luke Putkonen seemed to be securing his spot in the Tigers' bullpen even before Detroit announced RHP Bruce Rondon was finished for the season with Tommy John surgery impending. Putkonen entered March 22 with a streak of 10 1/3 scoreless spring innings. His slider has been better this spring, enhancing his mid-90s fastball and split-finger.
--RHP Justin Verlander will pitch Detroit's first game for the seventh straight season, new manager Brad Ausmus revealed after the pitcher made his second strong start of the spring. Verlander threw five innings of one-hit, one-walk pitching in a March 17 start and followed with five shutout frames March 21 against Atlanta. "I'm always grateful for starting on Opening Day," said Verlander, who was competing with defending Cy Young Award winner RHP Max Scherzer for the honor. "I never take it for granted. Of course I would have understood (if Scherzer had been chosen). I've said that. The guy won the Cy Young. Any other team in baseball and he's the Opening Day starter. There was not a doubt in my mind that I would be ready. But whether I would start it or not was up to Brad." Verlander underwent sports hernia surgery on both legs in January. He feels that condition might have been responsible for his sub-par 2013 season. "I want to pitch like I'm supposed to pitch. I hold myself to a higher standard than I think anybody could, and I expect to pitch up to that standard. Last year I didn't," he said about his 13-12 record and 3.46 ERA. "What caused that I don't know. It was not as easy for me as in the past. But that just gives me something to prove." He had allowed just seven hits and struck out 10, with four walks, in his first 13 2/3 spring innings.
--RHP Evan Reed has a stronger chance to make the Tigers with the news that RHP Bruce Rondon is out for season, needing Tommy John surgery. Reed got four outs March 21 without giving up a run to lower his spring ERA to 1.59, having given up just two earned runs in nine games. Reed is out of options and likely to be claimed if Detroit were to place him on waivers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You're always open to anything. I guess we'll continue to see what other options are out there, but we pursued a lot of options, talked to a lot of clubs, had a lot of internal discussions about other alternatives, and we like Andrew. If we can get better, we will. But we feel comfortable with this being a good solution for us with the mix of the guys that we have." -- Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, following the March 21 acquisition of INF Andrew Romine, on how the Tigers will address the loss of SS Jose Iglesias for most, if not all, of the 2014 season. Romine is not seen as a full-time shortstop.
MLB Team Report - Detroit Tigers - ROSTER REPORT
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Anibal Sanchez
RHP Rick Porcello
LHP Drew Smyly
Verlander has shown no negative effects from his January sports hernia surgery and is on track to be Detroit's season-opening starter if called on to do so.
Scherzer's task is to show his Cy Young Award season last year was no one-time thing. Sanchez looked worthy of his five-year deal in 2013 while Porcello took a step forward last year, enough to let Detroit feel secure enough to trade RHP Doug Fister.
Smyly re-enters the rotation after going through a season in the bullpen that saw him progress from early season long man to late-inning reliability.
The only concern with the rotation is injury; there is nobody in the minors ready to step up near the level of the pitcher they would replace entering the season.
RHP Joe Nathan
RHP Joba Chamberlain
RHP Al Alburquerque
LHP Ian Krol
LHP Phil Coke
RHP Luke Putkonen
RHP Evan Reed
The bullpen was a season-long problem in 2013, and it will be so again with a season-ending injury to prospective setup man RHP Bruce Rondon adding to a number of question marks associated with its members.
It was announced March 21 Rondon would require Tommy John surgery and would miss the entire 2014 season. Who replaces Rondon as the setup man will likely be a trial-and-error process right through the first month of the season.
Rondon's absence is an opportunity for RHP Evan Reed, who is having a solid spring, and non-roster LHP Blaine Hardy, who is also making a solid spring impression, to make the roster. LHP Phil Coke was righting himself after a shabby early showing.
There are other issues. Nathan is effective but aging -- with a history of poor postseason performances. Chamberlain hasn't been solid for nearly five years, Alburquerque needs to get his reliable fastball back, Krol ended last season poorly, Coke had a bad 2013 and Putkonen and Reed are untested.
The Tigers also have some promising relievers in the minors boasting the power arms the organization prizes, but the best of the group, RHP Corey Knebel, may not be ready until mid-year at the earliest.
1. 2B Ian Kinsler or CF Austin Jackson
2. RF Torii Hunter
3. 1B Miguel Cabrera
4. DH Victor Martinez
5. C Alex Avila
6. CF Austin Jackson or 2B Ian Kinsler
7. 3B Nick Castellanos
8. LF Rajai Davis
9. SS Danny Worth or SS Andrew Romine or SS Alex Gonzalez
New manager Brad Ausmus isn't ready to commit to a batting order until he goes through spring training, but it seems he's leaning toward having Kinsler lead off and Jackson, who has had a hot spring, hit lower in the order.
Added to his decisions was choosing how to replace SS Jose Iglesias, out four to six months with stress fractures in both shins.
The loss of LF Andy Dirks for 12 weeks with lower back surgery March 10 meant the Tigers are looking for a new platoon partner for Davis.
Castellanos has looked good at the plate this spring but shows rustiness in his return to third.
There is no established No. 5 hitter in the order but Avila might bat there by default despite his struggles over the past two seasons; he did heat up the last two months of last year.
Ausmus needs to pick who will bat first and second in his lineup, the choices being incumbent Jackson, Kinsler, who led off for Texas, and Torii Hunter. One of them could also hit sixth or fifth.
TOP ROOKIES: 3B Nick Castellanos (.278 in 18 Detroit at-bats; .276 with 18 home runs, 76 RBIs with Triple-A Toledo) has to flop badly for him not to be the Tigers' Opening Day third baseman. RHP Corey Knebel (1st round supplemental pick in last June's draft, 2-1 with 15 saves and an 0.87 ERA in 31 games for low Class A West Michigan) should open the season with high Class A Lakeland but his fastball (up to 98 mph) and hammer curve make him the best bet if the Tigers need late-inning bullpen help a month or two into the season. 2B/SS Hernan Perez (.197 in 34 games for Detroit last summer, .301 for Double-A Erie and .299 with Triple-A Toledo) is the top candidate to replace a middle infielder in case of an injury. C James McCann (.277-6-54 for Double-A Erie) is first in line if the Tigers need help at catcher.
--RHP Bruce Rondon (Tommy John surgery on right elbow) will miss the entire 2014 season. Rondon complained of some soreness in the elbow early that week and was sent to Dr. James Andrews, who revealed the diagnosis.
--SS Jose Iglesias (stress fractures in both shins) will miss 4-6. Iglesias was ordered to limit his leg activity to swimming or cycling lightly.
--LF Andy Dirks (lower back surgery in March 2014) is expected to be out until late March. Dirks said he has had problems with his lower back since high school but it locked up on him early in spring training.