Bullpen, Outfield still Unsettled

With just hours remaining before Alan Trammell must make his final decision on the team's 25 man roster, there are still positions that are unsettled. Who is in the running, and how many spots are left?

The Tigers, after making the decision that there just wouldn't be room for Dean Palmer, have two spots open for backup outfielders. Assuming one is a corner outfielder, and one is a backup in centerfield, the Tigers have a handful of players battling for those final two spots.

Dewayne Wise was originally thought to be the frontrunner for one of the spots (or the only spot if the team elected to keep Palmer, as he's capable of playing all three outfield positions) was sent to minor league camp on Thursday. Wise has been battling a quadriceps injury the past week, and without being able to play, got squeezed out of the competition.

With Wise out of the picture, that leaves two players competing in center, and two more competing for the corner spot.

The real battle exists in center, where Alexis Gomez is making a late push to take the spot from Nook Logan. Logan had a great start to the spring and is very strong defensively, but Gomez has more experience, and a little more pop in his bat. This decision appears to be a toss-up, as any number of factors could come into play and make the decision.

There is still technically a battle for the corner spot, but that competition is more of a formality. Marcus Thames and Bobby Higginson are the final candidates, but Higginson's fate appears sealed, as far as the Tigers are concerned. He could be traded, he could be released, he could be placed on waivers; but one way or the other, he won't be coming north with Detroit. This leaves Thames with the opportunity to come north, after looking like he would be sent to Toledo just a couple weeks ago.

The final competition comes in the bullpen, where there are still a few pitchers battling for the final bullpen spot.

Franklyn German came in to camp with his future very uncertain, but an impressive spring has locked up a spot for him.

That leaves one spot remaining for four pitchers. That number was reduced to three on Wednesday when the Tigers placed Fernando Rodney on the 15-day disabled list, a step the Tigers felt was necessary after he felt a slight pull in his throwing elbow. With Rodney still less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, the Tigers have every intention of being overly cautious with Rodney. He'll be expected back within a few weeks however.

So, the three remaining are Steve Colyer, Gary Knotts and Doug Creek. Colyer and Creek are left-handers, Knotts and Colyer have high ceilings but are out of options. Creek has impressed this spring, but couldn't even make it into the big leagues in 2004, let alone his increasing age (he just turned 36).

With an impressive outing this past week, Knotts probably could have locked up the spot, as the team is still in need of someone that can pitch multiple innings. But, Knotts laid an egg, and the spot is still up in the air.

The organization loves Colyer's potential (how many left-handers can reach the upper 90's on the radar gun?), but they aren't crazy about his lack of control. His upside means he's likely to get claimed off waivers, but his lack of control means it's tough to keep him on the club, especially when the team will only carry six relievers to begin with.

Creek has emerged as the wild-card, impressing despite his age and seemingly long odds against him. But does the team really need two situational left-handers, especially with already having three lefties in the rotation?

Much like the backup centerfielder, the final bullpen spot could very well come down to an unnamed variable that has yet to even be considered.

So, Trammell now has some decisions to make. And the clock is ticking.


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