Graham Cracked?: Catcher Andrew Graham will miss the entire 2008 season after recently undergoing surgery on his right elbow. Graham's procedure repaired a torn ligament in his throwing arm, but should not greatly impact his future as a solid backup catcher in the high minor leagues. Graham's career has been pretty unspectacular to date, but his defensive abilities and willingness to serve in a reserve role will allow him to remain a solid minor league catcher for several years.
Dlugach on Track: After undergoing surgery to repair tears in his right shoulder last May, shortstop Brent Dlugach is making excellent progress in his return to the field. At present, Dlugach is on track for a mid-April return to game action. It is unclear at this time whether Dlugach will be able to dive right back into the Double-A lineup, or if he will require some prep time in extended spring training to get ready for the rigors of a return to the lineup. Dlugach has been known for his defensive abilities – particularly his powerful arm from shortstop – and the true test of his return will be his ability to make the strong throws he has in the past.
Pitchers Mending: Left-hander Erik Averill has made swift progress in his return from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. After succumbing to the pain prior to the start of the 2007 season, Averill has made great strides and is on the verge of a return to game action. The latest word indicates that Averill should be able to break spring camp on an active roster. Given his prior success at West Michigan, Averill is likely to compete for a job on the Whitecaps' or Lakeland pitching staffs. It is doubtful that Erik will return directly to the starting rotation, but he could move back to that role further down the road.
Reliever PJ Finigan has had a little tougher road toward recovery, but his progress has been still been solid. After elbow surgery in June 2007, Finigan is on track for a return to game action toward the end of April. Prior to his injuries PJ was moving quickly through the organization and his solid fastball-slider combo had prospect mavens looking at a potential 2009 Major League debut. Finigan will likely get some work in the warm Florida weather, and with success at Lakeland, he will head back to Double-A to resume his climb toward Detroit.
Ankle Injuries: The second half of the 2007 season saw a deluge of severe ankle injuries among Tiger prospects. Utility player Louis Ott, and outfielders Londell Taylor and Luis Arlet were all stopped in their tracks by broken ankles between July and August. All three players are back at full strength and ready for game action during spring training. The biggest test – particularly for Taylor and Arlet – will be a return of their previous speed. Keep a close eye on their mobility in the field and speed on the bases as an indication of their return to full capacity.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.