News and Notes - 3/31

In the final spring training edition of News and Notes, the Tigers are now reaching the point where final decisions need to be made. The Tigers are now done with ‘A' games, so now all that is left is for manager Alan Trammell to make his final cuts – but the final cuts won't be easy, as always.

First, the Tigers sent three more players packing – OF Andres Torres, IF Jason Smith and lefty reliever Eric Eckenstahler. Eckenstahler just didn't produce when he was called upon, but the cuts were unfortunate for Torres and Smith, who did everything asked of them. Smith just didn't show the same promise as Omar Infante and Danny Klassen, while Torres really just felt the numbers crunch of the Tigers already carrying a fourth Outfielder and a full-time Designated Hitter.

After the moves, the Tigers are left with just 31 players in camp, 2 of which definitely won't be with the Tigers to start the season (Chris Spurling will be moved to the 60-day DL shortly, while recently-signed closer Ugueth Urbina will start the year with high-A Lakeland while he gets his arm into game condition).

And while were at recent developments, two more notables have arisen. One, Esteban Yan has been eliminated from the race for the final spot in the rotation. And two, IF and pinch hit specialist Greg Norton will make the squad. After Yan struggled for a second straight outing, his exclusion from the starting rotation isn't considered that much of a surprise. Trammell told Yan that he can't guarantee him a roster spot – especially with the improved pitching of Rule V selections RHP Lino Urdaneta and LHP Mike Bumatay. And while those two Rule V picks might be getting closer to a roster spot, the other Rule V player still in camp may well be fading out of the picture. It will be very difficult for the Tigers to carry both Norton and Chris Shelton, because both are around because of their bat, neither is particularly strong defensively (Norton can backup the corner Infield positions, Shelton; First Base and Catcher).

So, including Norton, the Tigers have now guaranteed roster spots to 12 position players (the starting lineup obviously, Norton, Inge and Monroe). If the Tigers elect to carry Mike DiFelice (still very likely), that will put them at 13, and the winner of the backup middle infielder job (Infante or Klassen) will make 14, completing the group. So, at this point, the only way Shelton makes the squad is if the team elects to cut DiFelice and go back to using Inge as the backup Catcher. While it is still definitely a possibility, fans might have to resign themselves to the idea that Shelton will be heading back to the Pirates very shortly.

On the pitching side, everything is up in the air. The top 4 starters are all in, so are Al Levine and Jamie Walker. Assuming all injury concerns are put aside, Danny Patterson and Fernando Rodney are on the team as well. Nate Robertson and Gary Knotts are still competing for the final rotation spot, but the loser could very well stick as the team's long reliever. So at that point the Tigers have 10 pitchers, with only one spot left between the Rule V guys (Urdaneta and Bumatay) and Yan. And even then, that position is only temporary as Urbina will jump to the Tigers within the first two weeks of the season.

So, as you can see, the Tigers still have quite a few question marks regarding their roster over the next few days. We should know the final 25 within the next couple of days, but one thing is for sure, no one is envying Trammell right around now.

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