Tigers News & Notes: 4/6

Why exactly did the Tigers go after Matt Ginter, and why is being able to grab him towards the end of spring training a good sign for the state of the Tigers? Plus, the complete 25 man roster, who is primed for a big year, and who may be on the way down.

INSIDE PITCH
The Tigers found the long reliever they had been looking for -- in New York.

But it's a sign of a deeper roster the Tigers were able to deal for late-spring help instead of gathering in somebody's waived or released discard.

The Tigers traded LHP Steve Colyer to the New York Mets on Saturday for RHP Matt Ginter in an exchange of pitchers who weren't going to make their respective teams out of spring training. Ginter, primarily a starter for the Mets last season, will fill the long relief role for the Tigers that Detroit entered the spring hoping RHP Gary Knotts would handle.

Knotts, who had a 9.00 ERA this spring, and Colyer were waived earlier in the week and outrighted to Triple-A.

Detroit was on the prowl for a pitcher who could burn 3-5 innings in case one of its starters got knocked out early. That enables manager Alan Trammell to get away with using 11 pitchers instead of 12, which means he can carry an extra position player for use in late-game and injury situations.

The remainder of the Tigers' bullpen -- RHP Troy Percival, RHP Ugueth Urbina, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, LHP Jamie Walker and RHP Franklyn German -- typically work just 1-2 innings.

The Tigers temporarily kept RHP John Ennis even after assigning him back to Triple-A Toledo just in case they couldn't make a deal or add a pitcher off the waiver wire. Ennis showed a better fastball this spring than he did last year but has only been working out of the bullpen since early last season.

The presence of Ennis, and RHP Fernando Rodney, disabled with a sore right shoulder, gives Detroit depth in the bullpen in case of emergency.

This points out the increased strength of the Tigers' roster because in previous seasons all the club had available to it were journeymen or retreads.

The next step is to have a crop of home-drafted or signed pitcher younger than the 27-year-old Rodney pushing for their turn.

PRIMED FOR A BIG SEASON: RHP Jeremy Bonderman has been superlative in spring training, even while using the early part to hone his changeup. After two straight seasons of improvement, the 21-year-old could emerge to become the staff leader.

ON THE DECLINE: RHP Jason Johnson has had four straight dismal second halves and hasn't performed well this spring. He could be looking at the backside of his career.

NOTES, QUOTES
--RHP Matt Ginter was obtained April 2 by Detroit from the New York Mets in exchange for LHP Steve Colyer, rounding out the Tigers' bullpen and roster for the start of the season. "He's an upgrade," manager Alan Trammell said, "plus he's better prepped for the role we need to fill. He threw three scoreless innings on Wednesday."

Ginter, a first-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox in 1999, has a career 5.32 ERA for 78 games in the majors.

Colyer had been outrighted to Triple-A Toledo along with RHP Gary Knotts, whom Ginter replaces as the Tigers' long reliever April 1.

Earlier the same day, LHP Doug Creek was assigned to minor league camp for what Manager Alan Trammell called "inconsistent command."

Colyer, 26, was 1-0 with a 6.47 ERA in 41 games with Detroit last year and 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 11 spring games.

Ginter, 27, was acquired by the Mets from the White Sox on March 27 of last year for OF Timo Perez. He went 1-3 with a 4.54 ERA in 14 starts and one relief appearance for the Mets and was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances in spring training. Manager Willie Randolph of the Mets elected to go with LHP Felix Heredia instead of Ginter.

Ginter allowed 82 hits over 69 1/3 innings with New York last year. This spring he had not allowed an earned run (three unearned) in 14 innings with nine hits, four walks and 10 strikeouts.

The Tigers plan to utilize Ginter for long early relief jobs, the role filled by Knotts last season. Knotts had been inconsistent with both his fastball and curve this spring.

--RHP Gary Knotts, outrighted to Triple-A Toledo on April 1, said afterward his right shoulder has been bothering him.

Knotts traveled with the Tigers back to Detroit and will be examined there. If he's hurt, Detroit will have to put him on the major league disabled list. His contract calls for a $370,000 salary in the majors and $252,800 if sent to the minors.

--Detroit's final exhibition game, a stopover in Philadelphia on April 2, was canceled because of rain.

Instead, the Tigers worked out at their spring training site in Lakeland, FL, before flying home to have a Sunday workout at Comerica Park in Detroit.

--OF Magglio Ordonez might miss Detroit's opener -- but because of illness and not his surgically repaired left knee.

Ordonez, who has not played since Tuesday because of what was diagnosed as diverticulitis, an intestinal inflammation, was flown to Detroit on Saturday to be examined by team doctors.

Manager Alan Trammell stressed the second examination was merely precautionary and still expressed optimism Ordonez will be ready to play on Opening Day Monday.

Ordonez has shown no evidence he is bothered by the knee that required two surgeries last season. He was brought along slowly as a precaution this spring and played in 12 exhibition games, hitting .267 with two home runs and nine RBI.

--CF Nook Logan was a roster hit despite not having a hit over his final 21 spring at-bats.

He beat out first OF DeWayne Wise, eliminated when he suffered a quadriceps injury, and then OF Alexis Gomez.

"I started pressing a little bit the last week and a half," said Logan, who will spell CF Craig Monroe. "The last two days, I didn't get any hits, but I just felt more comfortable at the plate, taking a few pitches and just looser, like the regular season had already started. That's the way I approached it."

Logan was batting .405 (15-for-37) before going 0-for-21.

"I just think because of Wise being hurt, I see Nook as the best center fielder besides Craig," Manager Alan Trammell said. "He gives us speed. I realize that he has not swung the bat lately at all, but I'm comfortable that if we have to do something, he gives me a dimension that we don't have -- speed."

--OF Bobby Higginson might not have been wanted by any other teams but Detroit finally decided to take him on for an 11th season. Higginson hit just .213 this spring but finished strong enough to convince Manager Alan Trammell to take him north with the team. The Tigers owe him $8.85 million this year regardless of where or whether he plays.

"I kind of had a feeling I had Tram in my corner," Higginson said Mar. 31 after finding out he was going to make the squad and not be traded or released.

The decision came at the expense of OF Marcus Thames, who had an excellent spring, and the decision to option Thames back to Triple-A made DH Dmitri Young mad. Young called the decision a "major-league mistake" and "beyond unfair."

"This is just one of those things where you can see the progression of a ballplayer," Young said. "You don't know that Marcus is around in a clubhouse, he's that kind of player, but he's a totally good person who'll pat you on the back and pick you up.

"When you see someone like that get absolutely (unfairly treated). ... I wasn't going to say anything about it, but if I'm one of the main guys on this team, I should be able to have a little say-so. This stinks. At the same time, you've got complainers and selfish people who are just given spots."

"I thought I did everything I needed to do, and I still get sent down," said Thames, who had four homers and 14 RBIs for the Tigers in 13 spring games. "This is like a slap in the face."

--The Tigers returned OF Alexis Gomez to minor league camp Thursday, virtually assuring that CF Nook Logan will make the team as CF Craig Monroe's backup.

Manager Alan Trammell was reluctant to send Gomez back.

"I like him," Trammell said. "All spring he's shown the energy you're looking for."

The Tigers acquired Gomez, 26, off waivers from the Kansas City in October.

"An hour after the Royals called to tell me about the waivers, the Tigers called to say they claimed me," he said. "I know this is a business and you don't know where you're going to start or finish.

"When I got to spring training with Detroit, I wanted to make sure I made use of every opportunity I had to play."

BY THE NUMBERS: 107 -- Total major league victories by members of Detroit's projected starting rotation, 10 less than the career total of Minnesota's Brad Radke.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think he's going to be a big-game pitcher like Jack Morris was. If anything, Jeremy is ahead of Jack was at the same age (22) because of better command." -- Former Detroit pitching coach and major league manager Roger Craig after the Tigers elevated RHP Jeremy Bonderman to pitch Opening Day a year ahead of schedule.

ROSTER REPORT
A strong finishing kick in spring training salvaged a roster spot for OF Bobby Higginson, who can defend both corners. CF Nook Logan was kept to back up CF Craig Monroe and Detroit added RHP Matt Ginter as its long reliever in an 11-man staff. RF Magglio Ordonez had no problems with his knee but an intestinal inflammation diagnosed as diverticulitis threatened to keep him out of action early in the season. Good final outings by starters RHP Jason Johnson and LHP Wilfredo Ledezma kept optimism at a peak entering the season.

ROTATION:
1. RHP Jeremy Bonderman
2. LHP Mike Maroth
3. RHP Jason Johnson
4. LHP Nate Robertson
5. LHP Wilfredo Ledezma
A consistent spring earned Bonderman the Opening Day starter's job (a year ahead of schedule), with the previously nominated Johnson, who had a good final exhibition outing, bumped down to third in the rotation. Ledezma allowed one run in his last two starts (12 innings) while Robertson and Maroth had solid springs. Detroit will ride these five until they fall down but there is help at Triple-A (RHP Andrew Good, for instance) unlike previous years.

BULLPEN:
--RHP Troy Percival (closer)
--RHP Ugueth Urbina
--RHP Kyle Farnsworth
--LHP Jamie Walker
--RHP Franklyn German
--RHP Matt Ginter
RHP Fernando Rodney, still struggling with his slider as he returns from Tommy John surgery, landed on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder but is expected back at mid-month. The return of Rodney, who probably would have made the club had his shoulder not begun paining him, could require one of the existing relievers to be trimmed. This is the type of hard-throwing bullpen favored by GM Dave Dombrowski.

LINEUP:
1. 2B Omar Infante
2. SS Carlos Guillen
3. C Ivan Rodriguez
4. RF Magglio Ordonez
5. DH Dmitri Young
6. LF Rondell White
7. CF Craig Monroe
8. 1B Carlos Pena
9. 3B Brandon Inge
CF Nook Logan will serve as the top defensive replacement with OF Bobby Higginson starting on occasion if the corner outfielders need some time off. Logan would hit leadoff when he starts. Inge and Infante will flip-flop in the order from time to time. The middle infielders likely will get time off, especially in cold weather. Even with daily flux, this lineup should generate runs. Manager Alan Trammell, like his mentor Sparky Anderson, likes to use his bench members once or twice a week.

RESERVES:
--C Vance Wilson
--IF Ramon Martinez
--IF Jason Smith
--CF Nook Logan
--OF Bobby Higginson
Martinez and Smith can handle short, second and third and will probably spell the middle infield starters once or twice a week; it helps they bat left (Smith) and right (Martinez). Logan could start in center on occasion but will primarily see late-inning action on defense or as a pinch-runner. Higginson could spell either corner outfielder but his playing time will be limited. Wilson will rest Rodriguez behind the plate once or twice a week. This is the most solid bench the Tigers have had in a long time.

ROOKIE WATCH: SS Tony Giarratano hit more than .300 and impressed manager Alan Trammell, despite never having played above Class A going into the spring. He'll open the season at Double-A but won't appear in Detroit until September, barring a season-ending injury to SS Carlos Guillen. CF Curtis Granderson was among the early cuts but he would be the first outfielder called up if something happened to one of the regulars. RHP Justin Verlander, last June's No. 1 draft choice and No. 2 overall, pitched well in 'B' games but won't pitch for the Tigers until 2006 at the earliest.

MEDICAL WATCH: 2B Omar Infante (sore right shoulder) may get days off, especially in cold weather. SS Carlos Guillen (right knee ACL surgery) was showing little effect of his knee surgery late in spring training. RF Magglio Ordonez (left knee surgery; diverticulitis) was out for a week with a sore stomach and lost 3-4 pounds; his early effectiveness could be questionable - but not because of his knee. RHP Fernando Rodney (right elbow ligament transplant; 15-day DL due to sore right shoulder) remained in Florida to resume throwing at mid-week and could return by mid-April. 2B Fernando Vina (60-day DL; right hamstring, 2/3-torn left patella tendon) did not report for spring training and likely is done as a player. RHP Colby Lewis (DL; rotator cuff surgery last April) will remain in Florida until he's ready to pitch again.


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