Inside Pitch: Set Heading into Spring

In the past, the Tigers would often enter spring training looking to see who would emerge at certain positions, who would win a position battle, and who would surprise to make the 25 man roster. The Tigers just don't have those same questions this year, with only a couple spots up for grabs.

INSIDE PITCH
It's a sign of how far the Tigers came last season that the only questions manager Jim Leyland has entering spring training are little ones.

Such as, which pitcher will make the squad as the seventh relief pitcher?

Six of Leyland's seven spots are taken, barring illness, injury or unexpected ineffectiveness. They belong to left-hander Wilfredo Ledezma and right-handers Jose Mesa, Jason Grilli, Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones.

The candidates for the lone opening are left-hander Edward Campusano and right-handers Zach Miner and Roman Colon. The minor league lefties in camp will be looked at, too, and one of them could sneak in.

Things could be complicated if left-hander Mike Maroth doesn't come back well from his bone chip elbow surgery of last season, but the Tigers think the veteran will be able to reclaim his spot in the rotation. Maroth helped himself, they say, by coming back late last season even though he didn't pitch well enough to make the postseason rosters.

Campusano will have the edge in the bullpen battle because he's left-handed and Detroit would like to have a one-batter southpaw to complement long man Ledezma. Whether he can make the jump from a handful of Double-A games to the majors is what spring training is for.

Left-hander Andrew Miller is scheduled to begin the season in the minors, possibly at the Double-A level. Miller is being groomed as a rotation addition, however, even though the Tigers gave him his first pro experience out of the bullpen last summer.

It's a lot different than last spring, when observers were wondering whether Leyland would be audacious enough to keep both Zumaya and fellow rookie Justin Verlander on the roster, a move he made with great results. Having a good team means there aren't as many openings to contend for.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Detroit will have 17 home games during 2007 spring training, with tickets priced at two levels for the second consecutive year.

The Tigers have bumped up prices for all seats by $2 for all Friday, Saturday and Sunday games plus those against the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees.

The premium pricing thus affects 10 of Detroit's 17 home spring contests, including split-squad matchups.

The American League Champions will open their 71st season at "Tiger Town" in Lakeland, Fla., with their traditional first game against local Florida Southern College at 1:05 p.m. EST Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Detroit will visit Port St. Lucie the next day to play the New York Mets. The spring training schedule ends Saturday, March 31 with a game at Tampa against the New York Yankees.

Highlights of the 17-game home schedule include two visits by the American League East champion Yankees (March 25 and 30) and two visits by the National League East champion Mets (March 11 and 14).

Detroit has one day off in March, the 21st, and the team will play three night games but only one at home, against Cleveland on Thursday, March 22.

--Detroit has a Triple Crown winner on its roster -- a negative Triple Crown winner.

SS Ramon Santiago is one of just 13 players to finish last in the Triple Crown categories -- batting average, home runs and RBIs -- among players who batted enough times to qualify for the league leaders.

Santiago accomplished the negative feat in 2003 as Detroit's primary shortstop when he hit .225 with two home runs and 29 RBIs.

--C Vance Wilson was the only player on the Tigers' postseason roster not to get into a game. But he knew that in advance.

Manager Jim Leyland talked with Wilson in advance of the playoffs and told him what to expect.

"That's the hardest part about being a backup catcher," Wilson said. "But I knew it would be like that going into the playoffs."

The Tigers had only two catchers on their roster, and Ivan Rodriguez was going to catch all the games unless he got hurt. Leyland had to hold back Wilson in case Rodriguez got hurt or an extra-innings situation arose where he would need both in the game at the same time.

--RHP Todd Jones' next appearance will be the 875th of his career, moving him past RHP Don McMahon into 22nd place on the all-time list for pitchers.

Jones is fifth in appearances among active pitchers.

Longevity is moving Jones up among other categories, and his 263 saves are the seventh most among active pitchers and place him 23rd all-time. Another 40-save season could move him into the top 20.

His 53 wins don't make the career leader list among relievers, but his 58 losses tie him for 34th all-time.

--INF Omar Infante will work out in the outfield more this spring as manager Jim Leyland searches for ways to get him more at-bats.

"We'll spot-start him in the infield," Leyland said, "maybe DH and he'll maybe play the outfield a little more. We'll work him out in center field a little more."

Infante hit a career-best .277 with four home runs and 25 RBIs as a part-time player last season.

--The Tigers are moving their popular TigerFest winter event to Comerica Park for the first time.

This year's promotional event is scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20.

The Tigers plan to cover and heat most of the fan-access areas and also will open many areas of the ballpark for touring, including both clubhouses, the visitors' batting tunnel, the grounds crew area, the press box and a club-level suite.

Fans will be allowed to take swings in major league batting cages and throw in a radar gun timed area.

Selected Tigers players and coaches will be on hand for autograph sessions, photos and instructional clinics.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids age 14 and under.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Openings in the Detroit bullpen entering spring training. The Tigers believe LHP Edward Campusano, RHP Zach Miner or a left-handed minor league signee will be battling for the opening.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are not looking to trade Craig Monroe. We are not shopping him in any way, shape or form." -- Manager Jim Leyland on Detroit's plans for Monroe, whom he is counting on being the regular left fielder in 2007.


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