Following the lead of many other teams throughout baseball in recent weeks, the Tigers made their first big roster reduction of the spring today. The Tigers sent 12 players to minor league camp, and released one other.
The Tigers assigned pitchers Tim Crabtree and Colby Lewis, catchers Mike Rabelo and Danilo Sanchez, and infielder Kevin Hooper to minor league camp. This general assignment indicates that these players will continue to be in competition for slots throughout the minor league system, and could land anywhere; though it is likely all five players will be distributed between the Toledo and Erie rosters.
In addition, starting pitchers Preston Larrison, Jordan Tata, and Humberto Sanchez, along with reliever Eulogio de la Cruz were optioned to AA-Erie. Sanchez and Larrison will be returning to the Seawolves, while Tata and de la Cruz will be heading to AA for the first time. Larrison's assignment comes as a bit of a surprise considering his AA success last year, but there is still a chance he could be promoted to Toledo before the end of spring training.
A significant part of the Erie offense also took shape today. Infielders Kody Kirkland and Tony Giarratano were optioned to the Seawolves, along with outfielder Brent Clevlen. Kirkland and Clevlen have been swinging hot bats this spring and have made very positive impressions on the organization. Both players are coming off big seasons at Lakeland in 2005, and the assignments to AA-Erie were expected. Giarratano was also expected to be assigned to Erie, despite his time there last summer. Tony struggled to get his offense and defense on track last year, and will look to rebound in 2006.
The last move of the day, was the release of minor league free agent, Matt Mantei, from his Toledo contract. Mantei has battled arm injuries much of his career, and that trend continued this spring. There were high hopes that he would remain healthy and be a viable bullpen option for the Tigers in 2006, but those dreams don't appear to be coming true.
All-in-all, none of today's moves are surprising, and these are just the first of many cuts the Tigers must make between now and Opening Day.