Starting off with that familiar player . . . It was originally laughed about that the Tigers got Carlos Guillen for just Ramon Santiago and minor league shortstop Juan Gonzalez. That deal has now become just Guillen for Santiago, as Gonzalez was let go by Seattle and signed back on with Detroit. Gonzalez reported to Lakeland, where he promptly jumped into the lineup and went 1-for-3 playing shortstop on Tuesday night. Gonzalez will likely see a good amount of time for the L-Tigers at short.
This playing time will likely come from Juan Francia seeing more time at second base. Eric Rodland hasn't produced up to expectations, meanwhile there are some that still aren't certain that Francia can handle shortstop defensively, even though he has just two errors through the first six weeks.
Onto the other moves, the first isn't a big name move. Mike Kobow was moved up to AA Erie, and Lakeland brought back Jermy Rodriguez from extended Spring Training. A simple bullpen shift that likely won't command much interest.
The other move however was one to note, as the Tigers released OF Wilton Reynolds and brought in Jason Knoedler from Erie to take a backup job. Reynolds had already lost of his playing time with just a .206 average, had proved incapable of taking a pitch (13 strikeouts, no walks), and at 25 years old in high-A ball, was unlikely to really ever turn the corner. Reynolds was considered quite a prospect when he was brought into the organization, possessing incredible physical tools. But Reynolds never saw the power completely develop (after a great start in 2002 with 9 homers and 57 RBI in half a season for Oneonta), and his average remained pathetically low. And so Reynolds' run with the Tigers (and likely in baseball) ends. For every story you hear of a player overcoming the odds to make it, there's a hundred like Reynolds that you never hear.
While it's hard to rain on the parade of the great start the L-Tigers have had, it's worth noting that their performance is very much benefited by an experienced rotation. Talent as well as coaching certainly have something to do with the improved pitching, but the experience factor cannot be overlooked. Last year's original rotation had an average of just 21.1 years of age, rather young for the Florida State League. However, this year's group has a rather old group together, with the average age coming in at 22.6. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that the Tigers have leaned heavily on college pitching in the recent drafts and have a number of more experienced pitchers that are showing their experience. But performance is performance, and this group is performing well.
And finally focusing on one member of the rotation; the member that came as a bit of a surprise. The Tigers elected to move Eulogio DeLa Cruz into the rotation to get him more innings and force him to work on his off-speed pitches, where as last season DeLa Cruz threw nothing but fastballs, regardless of the opposition and situation. The move appears to be paying off, as not only is DeLa Cruz seeing improvement with his curveball, but he's pitching well just the same, with a 3.16 ERA in seven appearances, including six starts. DeLa Cruz will be moved back to the bullpen eventually, but for now, expect him to remain and continue to work on his other offerings.