Tigers News & Notes: 12/14

The Tigers seemingly already have 5 starting pitchers - so why are they still pursuing a starting pitcher in free agency? Plus, promotions in the front office and a couple of additions to minor league coaching staffs.

There are a couple of good reasons behind the Tigers' pursuit of a potential sixth starting pitcher.

No team can have too many pitchers. That's been a truism since they started putting hide covers on baseballs.

Even teams that seemingly have enough don't have enough. Ask the New York Yankees.

The Tigers ended last season with numbers in their rotation, if not quality. Their chief problem was inexperience.

Detroit's final rotation included RHP Jason Johnson, RHP Jeremy Bonderman, LHP Mike Maroth, LHP Nate Robertson and RHP Gary Knotts. LHP Wilfredo Ledezma, who passed an audition before being shut down when he reached his limit on innings, is slated to bump Knotts back to the bullpen in the spring.

Johnson aside, that's a pretty young group of starters. Maroth is the only one with more than two years of major league starting experience.

The Tigers pursued RHP Carl Pavano to give that group some leadership, the same reason Detroit was expected to go after RHP Derek Lowe.

The addition of a starter who had enjoyed some high-pressure success as a major league starter could shorten the learning process of Detroit's younger pitchers.

It would also give the Tigers the flexibility to trade one of their incumbent starters for help in another area. Detroit could pick up bench strength, bullpen help or a decent player with a bad contract from another team.

Knotts is a "Plan B" -- someone who could provide Detroit with a strong long reliever or a pitcher who could step in and do a capable job if a starter went down.

Adding a top-tier starter would take some of the pressure off Bonderman and Ledezma to become immediate aces and quicken Detroit's efforts to become a postseason contender.

The Tigers are tired of being a league doormat. They want to be the door.

--CF Alex Sanchez should know by Dec. 20 whether he'll be playing for the Tigers next season. Detroit must offer a contract or arbitration to Sanchez by that date or he becomes a free agent. Sanchez earned $385,000 playing and not playing for the Tigers last season and likely would draw a multimillion-dollar raise if he went to arbitration. He batted .322 and led the league with 28 bunt hits.

--Dan Lunetta was named director of minor league operations for Detroit on Dec. 8, succeeding Ricky Bennett. Bennett resigned to become Houston's assistant general manager/director of player development. Detroit also promoted Mike Smith to director of baseball operations.

--Former major league C Duffy Dyer has been named manager of Detroit's Double-A Erie farm club following the resignation of Rick Sweet.

The Tigers also announced Mike Rojas will shift from being manager at short-season Oneonta of the New York-Penn League to become manager at high Class A Lakeland. His coaches will be former pitcher Britt Burns and former Tiger outfielder/hitting coach Larry Herndon.

Coaching for Dyer at Erie will be Mike Caldwell (pitchers) and Pete Incaviglia (hitters).

Dyer spent the last two seasons as a scout with the New York Mets. His 14-year playing career ended after Detroit released him after two games in 1981.

He has major league coaching experience with the Chicago Cubs (1983), Milwaukee Brewers (1989-95) and Oakland A's (1996-98). Dyer managed in the minors for Minnesota, Milwaukee and Baltimore.

Caldwell and Incaviglia coached at Erie last season.

Rojas was a minor league manager for Cincinnati, Houston and Chicago White Sox before joining the Detroit organization two years ago.

Burns will return for his fourth season in the Tigers organization, his second as the pitching coach at Lakeland. Herndon served as the Tigers' major league hitting coach for 6 1/2 seasons (1992-98). He played 14 seasons in the majors, the last seven with Detroit. He was a career .274 hitter with 107 home runs.

--RHPs Esteban Yan and Al Levine officially saw their ties with Detroit severed Dec. 7 when the Tigers declined to offer them arbitration for 2005.

Detroit earlier had bought out the second year of Levine's contract. Yan had elected to become a free agent.

"We made them an offer, but they were looking for more than one year," Tigers president/CEO/general manager Dave Dombrowski said.

The Tigers could still re-sign them, but not until May.

--OF Craig Monroe was arrested Dec. 3 after being accused of shoplifting a $30 belt.

Brett Thompson, a loss-prevention officer at the Burdines-Macy's store in Port Charlotte, FL, called police after he saw Monroe put on the belt and walk out without paying, according to the police report.

Monroe "pulled his shirt down over the belt, concealing the belt, and exited the store passing all points of sale," the report stated.

The belt sold for $29.99. Monroe made more than $300,000 as a Tigers outfielder last season.

Monroe, 27, posted $500 bond and was to be arraigned Wednesday (Dec. 15) on a charge of petty theft, a second-degree misdemeanor.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Difference between errors (9) and walks (7) for Detroit CF Alex Sanchez last season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You express interest in players and you're not going to sign all of them." -- President/CEO/general manager Dave Dombrowski after learning on the eve of the winter meetings that 3B Troy Glaus, one of the free agents he was pursuing, decided to sign with Arizona.

Detroit signed closer RHP Troy Percival as part of its drive to upgrade the bullpen and would like to do more, especially if it trades last year's closer, RHP Ugueth Urbina. Acquiring a middle-of-the-order hitter who could play solid defense at third base or center field remained a top priority, and the ability of Brandon Inge to handle either position gives the Tigers flexibility. Adding a top-of-the-rotation starter would give Detroit some depth in that area, possibly enabling it to make a deal to strengthen another spot.

ARRIVALS: RHP Troy Percival (free agent from Anaheim), RHP Colby Lewis (waiver claim, from Texas), OF Byron Gettis (waiver claim, from Kansas City), OF Dewayne Wise (waiver claim, from Atlanta), CF Alexis Gomez (waiver claim, from Kansas City).

DEPARTURES: RHP Al Levine ($100,000 buyout of club option), RHP Esteban Yan (became free agent after club declined to offer arbitration).

BIGGEST NEEDS: A second left-handed reliever, solid middle-inning relievers, a slugging third baseman who can field, a center fielder whose defense and offense are in balance, a solid upper-tier starting pitcher.

FREE AGENTS: RHP Al Levine, RHP Esteban Yan.
Levine was too expensive for what he showed Detroit last season, while Yan had trouble closing games in September when RHP Ugueth Urbina went home to Venezuela to deal with the kidnapping of his mother. Yan wanted a two-year deal and Detroit offered only one.

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: CF Alex Sanchez, UTIL Brandon Inge, 1B Carlos Pena.
Inge and Pena will be back, but Sanchez is a tough call. He's in line for a bigger raise than Detroit would like to pay for someone who barely played after July 7 (40 at-bats), has lots to learn about defense and sometimes doesn't make good decisions on the bases. Sanchez's return could depend on who Detroit gets to play third or center field.

IN LIMBO: CF Alex Sanchez might not be offered arbitration -- especially should the Tigers land a power-hitting third baseman or a skilled defensive center fielder. 3B Eric Munson is a man with considerable power potential but is without a solid position defensively; he could be waived or traded. OFs Craig Monroe and Marcus Thames are trade material, as are RHPs Gary Knotts and Jason Johnson. Detroit wouldn't mind dealing RF Bobby Higginson but would have to pay most of his $8 million salary to make it happen. RHP Ugueth Urbina could be traded now that the Tigers have signed RHP Troy Percival.

MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Colby Lewis (rotator cuff surgery in mid-April) hopes to be ready to pitch in the spring. SS Carlos Guillen (right knee ACL surgery Sept. 28) will be prepped in the spring with Opening Day in mind. CF Alex Sanchez (right quadriceps) will be ready for spring training. 2B Fernando Vina (right hamstring, 2/3-torn left patella tendon) declined surgery, which was iffy as far as a recovery, and will try to come back in the spring knowing his career could be over. RHP Nate Cornejo (right shoulder labrum surgery) will be brought along slowly in the spring. RHP Fernando Rodney (right elbow ligament transplant) is throwing again and hopes to be ready in spring training. RHP Chris Spurling (right elbow ligament transplant) is throwing again and hopes to compete for a job in the spring.

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