As we approach Opening Day for the Tigers, more and more prospects will see their time in big league camp end. Today, the Tigers optioned right-handed pitcher Virgil Vasquez and outfielder Brent Clevlen to Triple-A Toledo. This move was not unexpected, as both players have been considered locks for the Mud Hens roster since before spring training began. Vasquez will begin his second season in Toledo, just six months after ranking among the International League leaders in wins, games started, complete games, shutouts, innings, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP. Vasquez will likely see time in Detroit this season, as the Tigers need additional relief help or spot starts in the rotation.
Clevlen returns to Toledo for his second campaign as well, following another disappointing season at the plate; his third in the last four seasons. With several outfielders already at the Major League level, including versatile players like Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn, Clevlen may not get an opportunity in Detroit until September when rosters expand.
Among those re-assigned to minor league camp were catchers Max St. Pierre and Nick Trzesniak. Both catchers were initially brought to big league spring training to provide extra catchers as the multitude of pitchers in camp worked to rebuild arm strength and refine pitches and mechanics. Neither player has been assigned to a specific roster yet, and will probably battle with other catchers to determine their final assignment. Both St. Pierre and Trzesniak are likely to break camp with either Erie or Toledo.
In addition to the two catchers, the Tigers moved three pitchers to the minor league fields; right-handed starter Chris Lambert, and relievers Freddi Dolsi and Preston Larrison. Lambert and Larrison are both likely destined for the Toledo roster once camp breaks in a couple of weeks, but no assignment has been made official at this time. After a solid season at Lakeland and a late season call to Double-A Erie, Dolsi is looking for a return engagement with the Seawolves. After some high praise from many throughout Tigers' camp, Dolsi has greatly improved his stock and will look to continue his development in 2008.
Finally, big league camp said goodbye to two very promising infielders; Scott Sizemore and Michael Hollimon. After spending the 2007 season in A-ball, Sizemore exploded in the Arizona Fall League; earning a look in big league camp, where he continued to impress. Sizemore could easily follow the trend established by fellow second baseman Michael Hollimon and jump straight to Double-A, but at present he is likely headed for Lakeland to start the season.
Speaking of Holllimon, a young man who has succeeded at every level at which he has played for the Tigers, his season won't get off to a quick start and there is a slim chance it may not start at all. Diving for a ball in yesterday's spring training game against Cincinnati, Hollimon separated his left shoulder. Early returns as of today indicate that the injury may not be as severe as initially thought, and Hollimon may be able to return to action in relatively short order. Don't expect him to be ready for the opening of the Mud Hens' season, but there are signs that his absence may end soon after. TigsTown will provide an in-depth look at shoulder dislocations later this week as part of its new series, TigsTown Injury Analysis.