The first round of cuts have come today with few surprises. Among those on the 40-man roster; LHP Rob Henkel and OF Nook Logan were both assigned to AAA Toledo while RHP's Kenny Baugh, Preston Larrison, Roberto Novoa and IF's Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn were assigned to AA Erie. The Tigers also sent 9 non-roster invitees to their minor league camp; RHP Jorge Cordova, RHP David Cortes, RHP John Ennis, LHP Andy Van Hekken, LHP Adrian Burnside, C Mike Rabelo, C Maxim St. Pierre, IF Rayner Bautista, and OF Jeff Inglin. While there were a number of cuts made, the Tigers are still left with 49 players in camp, meaning they'll have to almost cut the group in half before they can head north for the start of the season.
An interesting battle could be brewing for the fifth spot in the rotation between RHP Esteban Yan and LHP Nate Robertson. Robertson was thought to have the upper edge, but Yan had an excellent showing on Sunday, while Robertson struggled mightily. The possibility remains that the Tigers will look to make an upgrade at the position (Anaheim veteran righty Ramon Ortiz could be a possibility - in which case Yan would move to the bullpen and Robertson probably back to Toledo), but if not, this battle could get very intense over the remaining couple weeks of camp.
And speaking of struggling mightily, no one seems to be suffering more than former closer Matt Anderson. Anderson came into camp expecting to reclaim the Closer role, but instead he has done nothing but re-inforce the notion that he's no longer made out to close games. What's more, if Anderson continues pitching the way he has been (allowed 4 runs in 2 of his last 3 outings), he might not even have a roster spot, let alone the closer role.
The competition for backups continues with few answers thusfar. No one has emerged as a reliable backup for Centerfield or Shortstop, and while the Tigers can probably live with Craig Monroe as the backup Centerfielder, a backup Shortstop is a necessity - especially considering Carlos Guillen and his injury history. Omar Infante has swung the bat well, but has been a disaster in the field. Thusfar, only non-roster invitee Jason Smith has had any impact, but many question if he can really be a reliable backup on the left side of the infield.
Another interesting storyline could begin to brew as far as backup players are concerned. The Tigers are already carrying Dmitri Young, who can back up at the corners in both the infield and outfield, but desire to have another option. Non-roster invitee Greg Norton has shown he can be an excellent bat off the bench for the Tigers, but Chris Shelton has shown amazing potential despite limited at bats. The Tigers probably won't be able to keep both - meaning Trammell will have to decide how important Norton would be to the team this season compared to how much value Shelton carries potential-wise.
As each Spring Training moves along, battles for the final roster spots evolve. It will be interesting to see where the competition heats up over the next few weeks and who ends up being left in the dust.