Two acquisitions in just three early February days changed the entire outlook for the Tigers this spring.
Detroit enters spring training at this point wondering just how close to contention for first place in the AL Central it really is.
At the start of the month the club was backpedaling from expectations heightened by the early postseason signing of closer RHP Troy Percival, fighting a feeling it might be entering a growing-up year and lamenting the star free agents it fell short of acquiring.
But the Feb. 7 signing of RF Magglio Ordonez gave Detroit the middle-of-the-lineup outfield pop it entered the offseason searching for -- providing doctors are correct in their assurances his knee is OK.
The Feb. 9 trade with the Chicago Cubs for reliever RHP Kyle Farnsworth wasn't as flashy, but coming on the heels of the Ordonez signing it was a clear signal that Detroit owner Mike Ilitch's "I want to win now" statement to his new outfielder wasn't just talk. It was also a sign a midseason addition might be made if warranted.
The Tigers believe adding the erratic but talented Farnsworth builds up the bullpen, a major Detroit weakness last season, and the cost was a reliever who might have made the club (this year or next), another so far failed No. 1 draft choice and a promising young outfielder who is years away.
"This is two years in a row," manager Alan Trammell said of the late winter impact addition. "Sometimes things don't happen as quickly as you'd like. But nevertheless, we're going into spring training here real soon with another impact player."
Detroit now has a surplus of outfielders, but that problem will be dealt with.
Ordonez will start in right, with Alex Sanchez probable for center and the trio of Rondell White, Craig Monroe and Bobby Higginson battling it out for left. OF Marcus Thames could be in the mix for a backup role if one of the others gets deleted.
"What we had was OK," Trammell said, "but what we have now is better."
As soon as the news of Ordonez signing broke, Detroit's players were enthusiastic in their reactions.
"I'm pretty excited about it," former cleanup hitter DH Dmitri Young said. "You look at his stats and what he's averaged, that's a solid killer. Plus he can go to cleanup and I can drop to the fifth spot, which is fine with me.
"Your cleanup hitter should be disciplined. I consider myself not disciplined. He ain't stepping on my toes going to cleanup."
The signing of Ordonez broke a steady draining of enthusiasm that followed the quick offseason addition of Percival.
The Tigers entered the offseason with goals of adding a solid veteran starting pitcher, a power bat and an upgraded bullpen. They now believe two of those goals were addressed and the third could take care of itself.
"Every ballclub can always get better," president/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski said. "We all have particular needs. Of course, we'll continue to evaluate throughout spring training, but right now we're prepared to go with a young starting staff. We think they'll take the steps that are necessary and perform for us."
Brandon Inge began 2004 as a super-utility player and became the primary third baseman by season's end. Now he enters the season as the regular at third.
SS Carlos Guillen is returning from knee ligament surgery that ended his season in early September and cost him the club record for RBI by a shortstop (held by his manager).
The hope is to be competitive with defending champion Minnesota plus Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox.
The addition of Ordonez, and Farnsworth, shifts the outlook from "probably next year" to "possibly this year."
WHERE, WHEN: Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, Fla. First exhibition game March 2 vs. Florida Southern College, first exhibition game against major league opponent March 3 at Clearwater vs. Philadelphia.
WHO'S IN CHARGE: Manager Alan Trammell (third season as manager, hit .285 over 20 seasons as Detroit's shortstop), pitching coach Bob Cluck, bench coach Kirk Gibson, hitting coach Bruce Fields, third-base coach Juan Samuel, first-base coach Mick Kelleher, bullpen coach Lance Parrish.
TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: RHP Jeremy Bonderman is poised for a breakout season in the Tigers' rotation. He went 6-19 two years ago as a 19-year-old and improved to 11-13 last season, including a 5-3 record and 2.32 ERA over his last nine starts. He has improved his changeup to go with a superior fastball and an explosive slider. Narrowing his focus to each single pitch late last year seemed to help. His peers recognize him as an emerging star; soon the public will, too.
TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: RHP Troy Percival is being counted on to be his old self without his old stuff. If hitters start sitting on his changeup and he doesn't have enough of a fastball left to make them pay, the former fearsome Anaheim closer could be looking at the beginning of the end. More frequent physical breakdowns could be a sign that age is taking its toll. Had a sterling second half of 2004 despite diminished fastball, so maybe there's gas still left in the tank although some signs are ominous.
--RF Magglio Ordonez agreed to a creative contract with Detroit on Feb. 7 that gives the player the possibility of the long-term security he craves and protects the club in case his left knee problem turns out to be a potentially career-threatening injury this season.
Ordonez, who will hit fourth for the Tigers, will get paid $6 million for the season -- with a $6 million bonus due in November if he spends less than 35 days on the disabled list because of the specified knee problem.
He injured his knee May 19 in a collision with a teammate. Ordonez played four games before doctors diagnosed a tear of the meniscus in his knee and ordered arthroscopic surgery June 5.
He returned to the White Sox on July 9 and played 10 more games before swelling in the afflicted knee led to a diagnosis of bone marrow edema (transient osteoporosis), ending Ordonez's season.
He visited Austria's Wolfgang Schaden, a specialist in knee injuries who works with soccer players in Europe, and there it was discovered there was an additional small tear in the anterior portion of the knee that required corrective surgery.
If Ordonez gets through the season with no major problems, the next four years of his five-year, $75 million deal become guaranteed. If certain performance standards in the fourth and fifth seasons are met, an additional two seasons kick in. All told, Ordonez could earn $105 million over seven years, plus bonuses.
"I'm very happy to be here," Ordonez said. "This division (the American League Central) is wide open. I want to win. I look forward to showing everyone I'm healthy."
Ordonez credited Tigers owner Mike Ilitch's personal approach for helping him decide to sign with Detroit. No other club offered more than two years, and that was a key factor, too.
--RF Magglio Ordonez will hit fourth for Detroit, exactly where he hit most of the time for the Chicago White Sox.
Ordonez, 31, will displace an entirely willing DH Dmitri Young from the fourth spot in the Tigers' batting order.
"That's where I hit for Cincinnati," Young said. "I like it there.
"You look at his stats and what he's averaged, that's a solid killer. Plus he can go to cleanup and I can drop to the fifth spot, which is fine with me. Your cleanup hitter should be disciplined. I consider myself not disciplined. He ain't stepping on my toes going to cleanup."
As a No. 4 hitter, Ordonez has a .551 slugging percentage along with a .925 on-base plus slugging average. He hits better than .300 with runners on base.
"Arguably," said manager Alan Trammell, "Our lineup is as good as any in the division."
C Ivan Rodriguez remains as Detroit's primary No. 3 hitter.
--RHP Kyle Farnsworth, a hard-throwing but erratic relief pitcher, was acquired Feb. 9 by the Tigers along with a player to be named later from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for RHP Roberto Novoa plus minor leaguers 3B Scott Moore and OF Bo Flowers.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Farnsworth, who turns 29 on April 14, has a fastball that touches 100 mph. He appeared in 72 games for the Cubs last season and was 4-5 record with a 4.73 ERA.
"Kyle Farnsworth is an established major league relief pitcher," president/CEO/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He can pitch in many roles out of our bullpen and is a quality addition to our pitching staff."
Farnsworth struck out 78 batters and was seventh among National League relievers with 10.53 strikeouts per nine innings. The Tigers' bullpen is now largely peopled by the hard throwers preferred by Dombrowski.
Farnsworth comes to the Tigers after a roller-coaster six years with the Cubs. He had a 1.93 ERA last July but a 19.29 ERA in August, and his ERA fluctuated wildly from season to season.
He fell out of favor in Chicago last August when he kicked a metal fan in the dugout, causing a knee sprain that put him on the disabled list during a pennant race.
In six seasons at the major league level with the Cubs, he went 22-37 with a 4.78 ERA. He is third all-time on the Cubs list for appearances with 343.
"Even if he doesn't improve at all, he's still going to help us," Tigers pitching coach Bob Cluck said. "This guy is not as good as he's going to be. That's my job."
Farnsworth, eligible for free agency after the season, recently avoided arbitration by signing a $1.975 million contract.
Novoa had a chance to win a bullpen job with Detroit and now will probably make Chicago's relief staff. He pitched most of last season in Double-A but also worked 16 games for the Tigers and was 1-1 with a 5.57 ERA.
The player to be named later Detroit will get from Chicago could be linked to whether Novoa makes the Cubs' roster.
Moore becomes the latest in a long line of No. 1 draft choices who didn't pan out with Detroit. The eighth choice in the 2002 draft, Moore was switched from short to third after his pro debut.
His power is what attracted Detroit to him ahead of OF Jeremy Hermida, but he's had trouble making contact as a pro and hasn't handled the transition to third very well. Moore hit .223 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 118 games for Class A Lakeland in 2004.
Flowers was taken in the fifth round of the 2002 draft and Detroit persuaded him to sign instead of accepting a football scholarship (he was a quarterback).
Flowers has speed and power but had not advanced out of short-season ball until a handful of late season games at low Class A West Michigan last summer. Flowers played most of the season at Oneonta, hitting .280 with four home runs and 26 RBI in 66 games. He batted .273 in six games for West Michigan.
--RHPs Jason Grilli and Mike James, two pitchers with major league experience, have signed minor league contracts with Detroit that allow them to participate in major league spring training with the Tigers.
James was recommended by newly signed free agent RHP Troy Percival, who played with him on some Anaheim teams. The 37-year-old hasn't pitched in the majors since 2002 but passed an audition viewed by manager Alan Trammell.
His best year was 1996, when he went 5-5 with a 2.67 earned-run average in 69 appearances for the Angels. He's also pitched for St. Louis and Colorado. James has a 3.67 career ERA with a 16-14 record and 11 saves in 288 games with Anaheim, St. Louis and Colorado.
Grilli, son of former Detroit RHP Steve Grilli, pitched briefly for the Florida Marlins in 2000 and 2001 before resurfacing with the Chicago White Sox for eight games last year. Steve Grilli had a four-season major league career, with Detroit in 1975-77 and appearing in one 1979 game with Toronto.
In 15 career major league games with Florida and Chicago, Jason Grilli owns a 5-5 record with a 6.78 ERA.
--Javair Gillett was named Detroit's major league strength and conditioning coordinator Feb. 8, replacing Dennie Taft, who resigned after five seasons for personal reasons.
Gillett enters his fourth season in the Tigers' organization after spending last season as the minor league strength and conditioning coordinator. He interned with the Tigers' organization in strength and conditioning for Triple-A Toledo in 2003 and Double-A Erie the year before that.
Gillett also served as a strength and conditioning intern with the Orlando Magic during the 2002-03 NBA season.
A certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, he received a bachelor's degree in exercise science in 2001 from DePauw University in Indiana.
--OF DeWayne Wise, obtained off waivers from Atlanta after last season, was designated for assignment Feb. 7 to make room for RF Magglio Ordonez on the Detroit roster.
Wise hit .228 in 77 games for Atlanta last season. He also appeared in the majors with Toronto in 2000 and 2002. His career average for 147 games is .203.
Detroit likely will outright Wise to Triple-A Toledo if he clears waivers, possibly inviting him to major league spring training.
BY THE NUMBERS: .433 -- Career batting average of new Detroit RF Magglio Ordonez with a runner on third base and less than two outs.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I believe we have the best team in the division. I know we can win this (American League Central) division." -- New Detroit RF Magglio Ordonez at the press conference Feb. 7 announcing his signing to a deal that could extend to seven years and $105 million.
Team spirits were lifted by the late winter signing of free agent RF Magglio Ordonez and subsequent addition via trade of RHP Kyle Farnsworth to bolster the bullpen. Both moves were signals management is committed to ending a string of sub-.500 seasons that dates to 1993 and that it would make additional moves during the season if called for. The offense was vastly improved a year ago and should be at least as good this year. The staff lacks a veteran ace but has talented young pitchers (RHP Jeremy Bonderman plus LHPs Wilfredo Ledezma and Nate Robertson) as well as an older one (RHP Jason Johnson) who potentially could emerge. Adding Ordonez means Detroit must subtract an outfielder at some point. Obtaining Farnsworth strengthens a bullpen that was already made stronger by the addition of free agent closer RHP Troy Percival. Farnsworth typifies the type of pitcher favored by GM Dave Dombrowski -- someone who throws so hard he overpowers his mistakes. Coughing up leads in the seventh and eighth innings a year ago kept the Tigers from reaching .500. There's a general "can do" feeling as the club tries to see if it can challenge for first place in the modest AL Central.
ARRIVALS: RHP Kyle Farnsworth (trade with Chicago Cubs), RF Magglio Ordonez (free agent from Chicago White Sox), C Vance Wilson (trade with New York Mets), INF Ramon Martinez (free agent from Chicago Cubs), RHP Troy Percival (free agent from Anaheim), RHP Colby Lewis (waiver claim from Texas), OF Byron Gettis (waiver claim from Kansas City).
DEPARTURES: RHP Roberto Novoa (trade to Chicago Cubs), RHP Al Levine ($100,000 buyout of club option), RHP Esteban Yan (elected free agency, club declined arbitration, signed two-year $3 million deal with Anaheim).
--LHP Mike Maroth (11-13, 4.31 ERA) is the senior member of the staff in terms of Detroit service. Effective when he works inside and out with his fastball. Ability to mix and spot other pitches makes him effective. Rebounded nicely from 21-loss 2003 season.
--RHP Jason Johnson (8-15, 5.13 ERA) battled a blister problem early in the season and then had his third straight subpar second half, causing management to question his strenuous workout through the whole year. He's agreed to taper off this year, and Detroit hopes this will help him live up to expectations when it signed him as a free agent from Baltimore last winter.
--RHP Jeremy Bonderman (11-13, 4.89 ERA) could be poised to become the staff ace. Narrowed his focus the last third of last season and posted impressive 2.32 ERA over final nine starts. Can't hold runners at first -- but who cares if nobody gets there? Lots of strikeouts, few hits allowed. Improved his changeup last year but will work on sharpening it some more this spring.
--LHP Nate Robertson (12-10, 4.90 ERA) got off to an impressive start last year and was among the league strikeout leaders through two months after just squeaking into the rotation at the end of spring training. Faded in the second half, but management attributes that to the strain of going through his first full season in the majors. Above average fastball and good slider make him tough to hit.
--LHP Wilfredo Ledezma showed in the last three months of the season Detroit was right to make him a Rule 5 choice from the Boston organization before the 2003 season. Fastball, curve, changeup and control all above average. Dominated at Double-A level, then 4-3, 4.39 ERA in 15 games (8 starts) with Detroit before being shut down when he hit innings limit for the season.
Detroit angled for a top-tier veteran starting pitcher to lead this promising but inexperienced staff, but RHP Carl Pavano opted for the New York Yankees. The organization expects Bonderman and Ledezma to eventually become the power pitcher leaders coveted by GM Dave Dombrowski -- but at least publicly is saying it expects that to happen in 2006, not 2005. It's a little like the situation of teen golf prodigy Michelle Wie -- the ingredients appear to be there, it's just a matter of waiting for experience and maturity.
--RHP Gary Knotts (7-6, 5.25 ERA) was serviceable as a swing man last year and could serve in the same role this season. He was noticeably better as a starter in September. His breaking ball determines how good he is. Should be an attractive long relief option.
--LHP Jamie Walker has entrenched himself as a versatile reliever, signing a one-year deal with an option for a second this offseason. His numbers (3-4-1, 3.20 ERA) would be even better if the Tigers didn't have to overuse him. Detroit has never been able to limit his use to one or two (left-handed) batters because it has never been able to give him any complementary left-side help.
--LHP Steve Colyer was erratic in two early trials with Detroit but sharpened up in late September. He's a hard-throwing lefty and that gives him an edge for a major league job, but wildness this spring would mean he can dig out his Toledo street guide.
--RHP Kyle Farnsworth (4-5, 4.73 ERA in 72 games) worked the last six seasons for the Chicago Cubs and will give Detroit someone it can use anywhere from early to late in a game. Needs to calm down his emotions, smooth out his erratic results and refine his slider -- but showing his 100 mph heater to a new league ought to be worth something.
--RHP Fernando Rodney missed last season with elbow ligament transplant surgery and reportedly is ready to throw without restrictions. He had a job clinched in spring training last year until the sore elbow eliminated him. Ticketed for seventh inning most of the time. Might not make the club if it decides, as expected, to go with six relievers early and his elbow isn't ready.
--RHP Ugueth Urbina (4-6, 4.50 ERA with 21 saves in 24 chances) will earn $4 million this season to be Detroit's setup man after a season in which he was one of handful of major league pitchers to hold opposing batters to less than a .200 average whether they hit left- or right-handed. Trade candidate -- but probably not if the Tigers don't think they have a reliable replacement, and almost certainly not now that the club sees itself as an AL Central contender. Could return to closer duty if RHP Troy Percival falters.
--RHP Troy Percival (2-3, 2.90 with 33 saves for Anaheim) enters the season as Detroit's anointed closer after signing a big two-year free agent deal. Age and health are becoming issues, but he was solid down the stretch for Anaheim last season. Might need to be babied to be effective, but the presence of RHP Ugueth Urbina, solid as Detroit's closer last year, permits this.
Shoring up the bullpen was the No. 1 front office priority after last season, and GM Dave Dombrowski thinks the additions of RHPs Troy Percival and Kyle Farnsworth accomplishes this. It also remakes the Tigers' bullpen with the hard throwers Dombrowski likes. This lets manager Alan Trammell back last year's closer, RHP Ugueth Urbina, into the setup role to bolster a spot that was a major problem for the team last year. RHP Gary Knotts looks to be a solid early relief man -- if he's not needed to take the place of a starter. Farnsworth can get key outs early, set up or close as needed; adding him means the Tigers can feel more secure about going with six relievers. Left-handed relief was a major weakness last year aside from the overworked LHP Jamie Walker, and finding a complement to him will be one of the spring's tasks. Counting on somebody coming back from elbow ligament transplant surgery is risky (note that RHP Danny Patterson tried to do so last year and is no longer on the team) but the Tigers are more or less counting on RHP Fernando Rodney to do so. It would seem the potential is there to be better, but the reverse is equally possible.
--CF Alex Sanchez is the best bunter in baseball (29 bunt singles), but his on-base percentage (held down by seven walks) is a drawback unless he hits .350. If he can read the papers, he knows his defense, on-base ability and baserunning skills are on trial this year. It will take some work, but he could easily turn his minuses into pluses. Definitely improved over the player he was with Milwaukee.
--SS Carlos Guillen hit .336 in 220 at-bats in the second spot last season but is also a viable option for the No. 6 position because he hit .396 in limited appearances there. Coming off September knee surgery and won't be pushed in the spring. A close second to teammate C Ivan Rodriguez for club MVP in 2004.
--C Ivan Rodriguez had a highlight-reel June, hitting .500, but a cooler post-All-Star period has manager Alan Trammell thinking he'll rest him more during the early part of the season. Some think his numbers (.334-19-86) will decline as he approaches his mid-30s, but his history suggests not. Instantly became the face of the team and its MVP when he arrived. Pencil in backup C Vance Wilson once or twice a week.
--RF Magglio Ordonez has a big contract -- but it's commensurate with his large upside. He has bona fide 30 home run, 100 RBI credentials -- if healthy. He'll be babied through the spring until his surgically repaired knee is up to speed.
--DH Dmitri Young is accepting the move from fourth to fifth in the lineup with the acquisition of RF Magglio Ordonez. Missed time with a broken ankle and wasn't 100 percent all year (18 home runs, 60 RBI in 104 games) but remains a team leader with his attitude and ability to produce.
--LF Rondell White/Craig Monroe will fight for playing time in left. Monroe can spot start at all three outfield positions and had good power numbers the last part of the year. White has had knee or ankle problems nearly ever year and might benefit from the presence of Monroe.
--1B Carlos Pena hit .300 after the All-Star break and finally showed the kind of offensive consistency the Tigers hoped for when they acquired him from Oakland 2 1/2 years ago. Still strikes out too much but achieved a breakthrough by bringing his walks up to equal the whiffs; the improved patience at the plate makes him a better hitter.
--2B Omar Infante is a dangerous hitter to have near the bottom of the lineup. Infante plays a solid defensive second base and has good gap power. Can be expected to improve as he matures. Could also play shortstop at the major league level.
--3B Brandon Inge hit near .300 when he didn't catch last year and that, along with his Gold Glove potential at the position, landed him the third base job this year when Detroit was unable to sign a major power player for the position. Inge should hit 15-20 home runs and drive in 70-80, even at the bottom of the order. His speed and on-base percentage (.340) make him a viable leadoff alternative and an excellent No. 9 presence. Was deadly with the bases loaded last year.
Manager Alan Trammell used a variety of lineups last season and will probably do so again because of a plan to rest C Ivan Rodriguez 1-2 days per week and the uncertainty of three players coming off injuries -- SS Carlos Guillen, LF Rondell White and RF Magglio Ordonez. DH Dmitri Young will probably see some cleanup duty while 2B Omar Infante could hit second with Guillen hitting third or sixth. Detroit might not show much patience with CF Alex Sanchez if he fails to enhance the weak areas of his game; the presence of Craig Monroe in the majors and CF Curtis Granderson at Triple-A could provide Trammell with alternatives. Trammell, like his mentor Sparky Anderson, likes to give his bench as much playing time as he can.
--INF Ramon Martinez was signed as a free agent from the Cubs to provide a solid right-handed hitting middle infield reserve. Martinez hit .246 in more than 100 games for the Cubs last season but figures to fall far short of that type of usage with the Tigers unless someone gets hurt. Capable defender at all the infield spots.
--INF Jason Smith did a solid job as a middle infield reserve when brought up by Detroit last May. Shows occasional power and line-drive gap hitting ability, although his hitting tailed off in September when his playing time went up. Provides decent defense, is a sound baserunner and can bunt.
--OF Bobby Higginson will probably open the season on the bench unless a giant spring lets him beat out the White/Monroe combo in left field or RF Magglio Ordonez's knee doesn't hold up. He could also be released in favor of OF Marcus Thames -- unlikely at this point because he provides a learned left-handed hitter off the bench.
--OF Rondell White/Craig Monroe figure to share time in left, initially, with one of them available for pinch-hitting and spot duty. Both have the potential to provide Detroit with lower order power. Monroe would have been the right fielder had Detroit not signed Ordonez.
--C Vance Wilson was obtained from the Mets to let Detroit give C Ivan Rodriguez a day or two off per week. He is a proven hitter at the major league level and a better-than-average defender with a strong arm.
Detroit's bench limitations became acute late last season when an injury took SS Carlos Guillen from the lineup and the ineffectiveness of 3B Eric Munson put UT Brandon Inge into the lineup full-time. Outfield production from the regulars was substandard, but reserve outfielders were solid. The Smith/Martinez infield combo gives the Tigers a left-right option for late inning maneuvering, while Wilson provides the team the solid backup catcher it has sought for years.
TOP ROOKIES: CF Curtis Granderson (.240 in 9 games with Detroit after .301-21-94 for Double-A Erie) is the only true rookie with a shot to make Detroit's roster -- and the earliest that figures to be possible is midseason. DH/1B/C Chris Shelton (.196-1-3 with Detroit, but .339-0-7 in 18 Triple-A rehab games) isn't a true rookie since he spent last season on Detroit's roster as a Rule 5 choice, but his 46 at-bats in 27 games don't constitute a whole lot of major league experience. Shelton, who hit .404 in the Arizona Fall League, will open the season at Triple-A but could create space for himself with a good start, especially if the Tigers need a bat. RHP Kyle Sleeth (4-4, 6.30 in 13 Double-A starts after 3-4, 3.67 in nine high Class A starts for Lakeland) was on the fast track after Detroit made him its top choice in the 2003 draft, but an inability to keep pitches down really hurt at Double-A Erie and the Tigers decided they needed to remake his delivery. Sleeth's weapons are good enough, though, to where good minor league numbers could bring him up late in the year.
SPRING FOCUS: Most of the attention will be on Detroit's injured, new and aged. RF Magglio Ordonez's left knee will get a long look after being repaired twice last season, costing him a long-term offer from anybody but Detroit. Ordonez will be brought along slowly in hopes he'll be ready for the grind of daily play when the games count. SS Carlos Guillen is coming back from September knee surgery, too, and also won't play a lot in the spring. OF Rondell White had knee and ankle problems, and CF Alex Sanchez needs improve his weak areas and avoid his leg ailments to stay ahead of the competition. RHP Fernando Rodney isn't even a year removed from right elbow ligament surgery, yet he's close to a roster spot -- if healthy. RHP Troy Percival will be observed to find out the best way of keeping him off the disabled list, where he spent much of the first half of last season. Percival's age could be a factor in his effectiveness, too, and if he's not able to do the job the Detroit bullpen will be tested. Bringing in RHP Kyle Farnsworth from the Cubs gives the bullpen some depth and options. The addition of Ordonez gives the Tigers an extra outfielder, so someone will be weeded out. There is competition for the left field job between incumbent Rondell White, OF Craig Monroe and OF Bobby Higginson, dislodged from right by Ordonez. The young starting rotation will be monitored, as well, since Detroit failed to pick up a veteran ace to lead it.
MEDICAL WATCH: RF Magglio Ordonez (knee surgery) has been given clearance to resume baseball activities but will be used sparsely in spring games. RHP Colby Lewis (rotator cuff surgery in mid-April) hopes to be ready to pitch in the spring but will probably open in the minors and be brought back slowly. SS Carlos Guillen (right knee ACL surgery Sept. 28) is reportedly ready to play but won't be overused during spring training. 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 is facing the end of his career; not going to be ready for spring training or Opening Day). RHP Nate Cornejo (right shoulder labrum surgery) is off the 40-man roster and will be brought along slowly in the spring. RHP Fernando Rodney (right elbow ligament transplant) is throwing and reportedly has been cleared for full duty. RHP Chris Spurling (right elbow ligament transplant) is throwing again and hopes to compete for a job in the spring.