Tigers News & Notes: 3/11

Dean Palmer has decided to try and make one last comeback attempt, but with the Tigers already carrying a full-time designated hitter, Palmer will have to make it as a fielder. But if he does, it could have interesting ramifications on the rest of the team, including CF Alex Sanchez. All this, plus the roster report and the spring training focus.

Everybody's rooting for Dean Palmer -- except maybe Alex Sanchez.

Palmer, 36, is one of the genuine nice guys in baseball. That's one of the reasons the Tigers granted their former third baseman's request to attempt a comeback this spring, a comeback nobody, including maybe him, expects to be successful.

After all, he's played just 30 games since 2001. Since then he's been through shoulder and neck surgeries plus a year of retirement.

But he spent the winter training hard, swinging a bat and trying to get sufficient WD-40 into his right shoulder to get enough rust out to make the long throw from third to first.

He got a reward Friday (March 4) with a looping single to right-center in an exhibition game, his first competitive hit since his seventh-inning single on May 9, 2003 broke up Jim Parque's no-hit bid in Tampa Bay. On Saturday (March 5), Palmer went 0-for-3 when DH Dmitri Young got hurt. Manager Alan Trammell plans to give him more chances to see if the comeback attempt is worth continuing.

"We don't have a spot open for someone who can just DH," Trammell said. "He has to play in the field."

Detroit is taking a chance because Palmer used to be capable of hitting 30 home runs and driving in 100. Were he to succeed, it would mean 3B Brandon Inge could be shifted to center field, where his defense would be an upgrade on Sanchez's.

"It's not going to be easy," said Palmer, who is playing basically for minimum wage, "but I owe the organization to give it a try.

"The last two years of my (five-year) contract, I was hurt. I couldn't do anything about that, but I feel an obligation to try now that I'm feeling good again.

"You don't want to look back and have regrets. I'll find out what I have left. I think I can still play."

Going to the minors is probably not an option for Palmer, who says he would think about it if assured it wouldn't be more than a few weeks. There's also the possibility of catching on with someone other than Detroit if he looks good enough in spring games.

So far the comeback opportunity looks like a longshot. But it's still a shot.

--RHP Jason Johnson and LHP Wilfredo Ledezma didn't hurt themselves with so-so performances in their first exhibition appearances, but they didn't help themselves, either.

"It was a nice little comeback," manager Alan Trammell offered after Detroit rebounded from an 8-1 deficit Saturday (March 5) to record a 9-8 victory over the visiting Yankees. "But the first part of the game wasn't good. That was pretty obvious. "

Johnson is the designated Opening Day pitcher for the Tigers, and Trammell has stated since last fall that Ledezma would have to pitch his way out of the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

"Jason wasn't very sharp, for whatever reason. He was definitely out of sync," the manager said. "Same thing (for Ledezma). He fell behind hitters. That's not the way you want to do it. But again, it's not judgmental week or day. We're not even close to that. But we knew that everything wasn't going to be perfect, and here's the first one."

--2B Omar Infante's spring debut was put on indefinite hold because of a sore right shoulder.

Infante, who has been taking groundballs and throwing to first, was scratched from a scheduled appearance Saturday (March 5) because his shoulder has been bothering him since he reported for spring training. Management believes it is not serious.

"I'm not going take any chances," manager Alan Trammell said. "He might be out a few more days. I don't like to have to say that, but this early, it's the wise thing to do. I'm going to make sure he's fine, even if it takes another week.

"His shoulder right from the get-go was sore, so we're going to make sure he's OK. I'd like to see him play like anybody else, but he's not throwing the ball like he's ready."

--Detroit put single-game tickets on sale Saturday (March 5), and in two hours exceeded the number sold on the comparable date a year ago.

The Tigers sold 30,000 tickets in two hours. A year ago, Detroit sold 25,000 in the entire first day single-game tickets went on sale.

Individual game tickets for Opening Day were sold out, including 3,700 standing-room tickets, assuring Detroit one of its best crowds ever at Comerica Park, which opened in 2000.

--3B Dean Palmer collected his first competitive base hit in nearly two years Friday (March 4) when he muscled a single into right-center field in the eighth inning of Detroit's 3-0 victory over visiting Philadelphia.

Palmer got a rousing ovation from fans at Joker Marchant Stadium when he was announced as a pinch hitter.

"I was a little nervous," Palmer said. "My biggest concern was being jumpy, but I felt great."

He is trying to make a comeback from a year of retirement, and he hasn't played a full season since 2000.

His last major league base hit came in his last game -- a seventh-inning bloop single that broke up Jim Parque's no-hit bid at Tampa Bay on May 9, 2003.

--LHP Nate Robertson started strong last spring, and he's doing it again.

Robertson pitched two hitless innings Friday (March 4) and struck out three of the first five batters he faced.

"I'm not here to coast," Robertson said. "I'm here to pitch as if I have a job to win."

--RHP Jeremy Bonderman was the first Detroit pitcher of the spring to go three innings -- and he did so in his first start.

Bonderman was supposed to work the first two innings of a Thursday (March 3) exhibition game against Philadelphia, but his pitch count was so low he was allowed to work the third.

Bonderman is targeting his changeup for extra use this spring, and he worked out of a third-inning jam by getting a groundout on a 3-1 change.

"He needs to continue to improve on that pitch; he knows it," Manager Alan Trammell said. "I don't care who it is, if you think you're going to throw it by him all the time, you're not going to do it."

"It's just a feel pitch," Bonderman said. "If you have confidence in it, it helps. This offseason, I told myself I was going to make myself throw that pitch. And I just worked on it all offseason playing catch. I played catch with it every day, and it's come a long way."

--CF Alex Sanchez may face a tough road to establish himself as Detroit's center fielder of the future, but he's now feeling safe at home.

Sanchez got a phone call two weekends ago from a man who informed him that his mother and younger brother, both thought to be in Cuba, were now in Mexico.

Mercedes Sanchez and Jorge Sanchez are now in Texas dealing with United States immigration officials.

"I said, 'Man, I don't believe it,'" Sanchez said. He had not seen his mother and brother since getting on a raft in August 1994 and leaving his native Cuba at age 18.

"This should give him some peace of mind," said Detroit third-base coach Juan Samuel, who has made Sanchez his personal project this spring. "I think we'll see a different guy. Think about it. We all get to go home and see our families. He hasn't been able to. I can't imagine having my mom alive and not seeing her for 10 years."

Sanchez doesn't have the baseball instincts of some players, possibly because he hasn't played as long as most of his contemporaries. Detroit looked hard for an upgrade in center this winter but re-signed Sanchez when unable to do so, informing the incumbent he needed to bear down on improving his game.

His defense needs improvement and he needs to drastically increase his patience at the plate.

Sanchez drew a seven-pitch walk in his first exhibition game at-bat.

"I told him that first at-bat was perfect," Samuel said. "I told him, 'If the first pitch is a ball, that doesn't mean you have to swing at the second pitch.'"

"I'm going to take a lot of pitches," Sanchez said. "Work the count."

--RHP Nate Cornejo might be a forgotten man by most this spring, but his manager, Alan Trammell, remembers.

Cornejo, who led the team in wins in 2003 but underwent surgery last July to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, has began throwing off a mound even though he's not expected to be ready to pitch again until later in the spring.

Cornejo was removed from Detroit's 40-man roster and was not invited to major league spring training. Trammell said the lack of an invitation wasn't a snub, just something to allow him to take his time getting back.

The Tigers would have to purchase his contract and put him back on the roster to get him back to the majors, but Trammell said it's a possibility at some point this year.

"He's a competitor," Trammell said. "We'll see what happens when he's fully recovered, how much he gets back. Because he's been here and he's been a guy that's had some success, I think he can help."

--RF Magglio Ordonez and SS Carlos Guillen won't play the first week of exhibition games as they continue to work their way back from knee surgeries.

"I pretty much made up my mind that I didn't even want to attempt it until (sometime this week)," manager Alan Trammell said.

He said he's pretty much avoided talking to Ordonez so the player wouldn't try to talk him into getting him into the lineup.

"I'm very encouraged by him," Trammell said. "Actually, my feeling on Carlos is that I thought there would be some times when we would be backing him off a little bit. He hasn't backed off at all."

Guillen still wears a knee brace as a precaution but has yet to show great range to either side.

"The one thing I see at this point is laterally going to the hole," Trammell said. "Going that way, like 3-4-5 steps, he's not quite there yet. Balls right at him, things like that, swinging (the bat), whoa, watching him hit, he looks right on. He's jumping in there off live pitching.

"I'm sure running the bases and going laterally, those kinds of things will be tough, but he's doing agility drills and doing everything, which is great."

--RHP Franklyn German, whose out-of-options status forces Detroit to take a hard look at him this spring, has been very sharp early in spring training.

"It sure seems like the light's gone on," pitching coach Bob Cluck said after watching German throw a very impressive batting practice.

"He's not had a bad outing yet," manager Alan Trammell said. "I've not seen him throw the way he's throwing."

The 6-foot-7, 260-pound German picked up on a suggestion Cluck made late last season -- adjusting his body angle when he pitches so his arm angle is more straight-on to batters.

"I want to stay here," German said. "I don't want to go anywhere."

German pitched three perfect innings last September after making the adjustment, then in winter ball had a 2.12 ERA and three walks in 17 innings for Escogido of the Dominican Winter League. He has walked at least a batter per inning in his Detroit stints the past three season.

"He had just one bad outing," said Tigers third-base coach Juan Samuel, who managed Escogido. "Sometimes I pitched him two days in a row, sometimes for two innings. I told (the Tigers) they'd better look at him again."

Detroit can't send German to the minors without putting him on waivers, and he probably would be claimed by another team.

--It looks as if fans without cable television won't be able to watch the Tigers play unless they go to Comerica Park.

Negotiations between Channel 50, which broadcast 25 games in 2004, and the Tigers dissolved last week, leaving about 20 percent of metropolitan Detroit homes without means of watching the Tigers on TV this summer.

Cable network Fox Sports Net has announced it will televise a record 110 games this season.

"The current economic climate, combined with our commitment to our core entertainment programming, make a commitment to Tigers baseball unworkable this year," said Linda Danna, senior vice president and general manager for Channel 50.

Detroit is not scheduled to appear on any national games on free TV at this time.

BY THE NUMBERS: 110 -- Regular-season Tigers games that will be shown by Fox Sports Network, 10 more than the cable television outlet for Detroit games had ever shown before. The extra 10 were added as it was becoming increasingly evident no Detroit games would be broadcast over free TV this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The days of the nice Tigers are gone. Milk-and-cookie teams finish last." -- Detroit DH Dmitri Young on his second-inning collision at home plate with New York Yankees' C John Flaherty in the Tigers' third exhibition game of the spring. Young was tagged out on the play and suffered a five-stitch cut to his left ear but returned afterward to watch his teammates rally from an 8-1 deficit to a 9-8 victory.

The better-than-expected condition of free agent RF Magglio Ordonez's left knee continued to keep team spirits in ascent. Addition via trade of RHP Kyle Farnsworth to bolster the bullpen also bolstered team morale. 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.

Rescue of RHP Ugueth Urbina's mother in Venezuela brought the former closer back to the team in good sprits.

The offense was vastly improved a year ago and could make another step up if Ordonez continues to show good health.

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.

--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 wasn't as advanced in his comeback as was hoped. Had to cut back his early throwing and was not expected to be ready to pitch in the first exhibition games. Had a job clinched in spring training last year until the sore elbow eliminated him. Detroit has other pitchers out of options, and if one of them has a strong spring the Tigers might opt to disable Rodney until later in the spring.

--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.

Detroit will go with six relievers to start the season. 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. Lack of left-handed help for LHP Jamie Walker led to his being overworked last year, and it remains to be seen if having harder-throwing right-handers this year can compensate for lack of a second lefty. 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. Still wearing a brace after September right knee ACL surgery and doesn't show full lateral movement yet. Taking grounders but won't be pushed until later in the spring. A close second to teammate C Ivan Rodriguez for club MVP.

--C Ivan Rodriguez had a highlight 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. Reported to camp minus 22 pounds from last season. 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. Reported early and immediately began participating in full workouts, with only precautionary sitting between at-bats and when he would have been standing around in the outfield. Not wearing a brace on his repaired left knee and has looked good in batting practice and in outfield drills. Won't play many exhibition games until mid-March.

--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: Watching the wounded is big in Lakeland. Biggest sign that RF Magglio Ordonez might be ready to go at full speed Opening Day is that little attention was being paid to him after he went through the first week of workouts without mishap and with few limitations. Ordonez will still be brought along slowly, playing little until mid-March, in hopes he'll be ready for the grind of daily playing when the games count.

SS Carlos Guillen was another injured player being watched, but he's still wearing a brace and could need more time before being ready; won't play much until late in spring training.

OF Rondell White had knee and ankle problems, too, while CF Alex Sanchez needs improve his weak areas and avoid his leg ailments to stay ahead of the competition.

RHP Fernando Rodney is less than a year away from right elbow ligament surgery but wasn't as ready as thought since he had to be pulled back from his first throwing session. If Rodney can't open, Detroit has three pitchers out of options waiting to step up.

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 (left knee surgery) has looked good in early workouts but is targeted for only 30 to 40 spring at-bats as a precaution. 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) reported early to work out but was wearing a right knee brace and showing limited lateral movement; will be brought along very slowly. CF Alex Sanchez (right quadriceps) was getting special tutoring to improve his outfield defense; looked fully recovered from leg woes of last year. 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) reported soreness in his arm, not elbow, and initial throwing session was cut short. Not expected to be ready to pitch in first exhibition games. RHP Chris Spurling (right elbow ligament transplant) is throwing well again and hopes to compete for a job in the spring.

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