TigsTown MLN: Who is Next in Line?

The Mud Hens have kept their roster relatively consistent over the past couple weeks, but that may be changing in the next couple weeks, with the potential demotion of a pair of under-performing Tigers. Who are these guys, and who may replace them in Detroit?

The first potential roster move involves Tiger first baseman Carlos Pena, who has struggled all season long, continuing to frustrate and mystify Tiger brass as to how he can transform from the Pena of last year's second half to the Pena of now. The idea has been floated by ESPN as well as others of dropping Pena (hitting a paltry .181 with an OPS of just .590), shifting Dmitri Young to first base, and calling up Chris Shelton from Toledo.

For now, this appears to be a wait-and-see situation, as the Tigers already have Young to play first and a handful of other bats on the bench to give Pena's at bats to on occasion. But should these struggles continue, one would have to assume that the Tigers would make a move toward Shelton, especially if he keeps hitting the way he is (.331-8-39). (Ed. note: This story went to publish prior to the promotion of Shelton and Pena being sent down)

Onto a spot that might require more immediate attention; the Tigers have been waiting for Wilfredo Ledezma's confidence to return and for him to start looking like the pitcher of '04 when he dominated Eastern League hitters before getting called up to Detroit, where he impressed for the final two months of the year. But now almost into June, the Tigers are still hoping to compete, and Ledezma's starts haven't been giving them that opportunity on a regular basis (he has just one quality start in his nine starts, and that came back in his first start of the year).

So, now that means the Tigers have to find a replacement for Ledezma, if indeed they do decide to send him back to Toledo to work on things, namely his confidence. Who might the Tigers turn to?

Well, it's likely that the replacement will come from the Toledo rotation, likely either Kenny Baugh, Sean Douglass, or Andrew Good.

While Good might be a possibility at some point, and has already been called up for a short period earlier this year, he's struggled as of late, including last night's game in which he allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings, raising his ERA almost to six (5.94).

That leaves Baugh and Douglass. It's tough to pick the replacement at this point for certain though, as both have their strong parts.

Douglass of course has major league experience, with both the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately, there's a reason why he's with the Tigers now, and it has everything to do with his performance. Needless to say, he didn't impress either organization enough to keep him around. But, you still can't argue with his 7-1 record and 3.00 ERA through the first third of the season with Toledo.

As for pure ability, Douglass' biggest opponent has always been his control. His low 90's fastball doesn't have much movement, and if he can't control his off-speed slurve and change-up, he's in trouble. At 26 with four seasons of big league appearances, he's not rattled easily, but that matters little if he still can't get hitters out.

Baugh on the other hand might be a bit more of the sentimental choice. A former first round draft pick, he's battled numerous arm injuries since the Tigers drafted him, including losing more than a year to an arm injury that was likely the result of over-use from his days at Rice University (Rice is notorious for over-working young arms – in one game at Rice, Baugh threw an outrageous 168 pitches in a single game).

Because of the injuries, Baugh no longer throws at the speed he used to, though he's been steadily hitting the low 90's after struggling with velocity over the past two years. Instead of speed he relies on solid movement as well as excellent control to get batters out and while his numbers aren't quite as impressive as Douglass' (4-3, 3.07 ERA), they're still plenty strong.

Both players can make an argument, but Baugh being homegrown, as well as the fact that Douglass has already failed numerous times in the big leagues should lead the Tigers to give Kenny Baugh his major league debut should they decide to remove Ledezma from the rotation. Plus, Baugh (as well as Good) are already on the 40 man roster, where as Douglass isn't. Meaning the Tigers would need to make room for Douglass by removing someone else.

So, if Alan Trammell elects to make a switch, Baugh would be the right direction to take.

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