Inside Pitch: Figuring Out the Lineup

With the offseason changes the team has undergone, the Tigers' preliminary 2010 lineup is almost exclusively filled with right-handers, with switch-hitting Carlos Guillen the lone exception.

Just because the lineup the Tigers currently project seems to be OK doesn't make it so.

The opposition won't be digging left-handers out of the graveyard to start against Detroit this season because the Tigers bat almost exclusively right-handed.

"I would say, offensively, we're probably a little too right-handed," manager Jim Leyland said. "(We're) a little lopsided right-handed."

Rookie second baseman Scott Sizemore, who inherits Placido Polanco's position, bats from the right side, and rookie center fielder Austin Jackson, taking over for the left-handed swinging Curtis Granderson, is also a right-handed hitter.

The only returning Detroit regular who bats left-handed is switch-hitting left fielder Carlos Guillen. The Tigers do have southpaw swingers available on their bench: infielder Ramon Santiago, another switch-hitter, and outfielder Clete Thomas.

Catcher Alex Avila, who has a chance to make the team as the backup to Gerald Laird, bats left-handed but is just as likely to begin the season in the minors as he is to be the No. 2 catcher.

Other left-handed bats on Detroit's 40-man roster include utility players Don Kelly, who isn't likely to make the spring cut at this point, and Jeff Larish, who is kind of a forgotten man after struggling through a bad wrist last season.

Lack of left-handed hitting is why Detroit went out and got designated hitter Aubrey Huff before the August waiver trade deadline, and it's a problem the Tigers probably will have to live with all season because so many of their regulars are not tradable.

"We're going to have to be creative," Leyland said. "But you know, you have a lot of time before the season. So you have the rest of the winter and you have spring training to look at a player and maybe pick somebody up that would maybe fit that bill a little bit more.

"But if not, you improvise. You do the best you can and you make the most sound decision you can with the team you have."

--RHP Freddy Dolsi was claimed on waivers by the White Sox on Dec. 18 after Detroit designated him for assignment during the winter meetings to make room on its roster for two roster additions. Dolsi finished 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA and 10 saves in 39 appearances for Triple-A Toledo in 2009. In six outings with Detroit, he went 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA after going 1-5 with a 3.97 ERA in 42 games for the Tigers the year before in his rookie season.

--LHP Phil Dumatrait signed a minor league contract by the Tigers after not being offered a contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dumatrait has been in the majors each of the last three seasons, debuting with Cincinnati in 2007 before joining Pittsburgh. Dumatrait started 11 times in 21 games two seasons ago but was used in relief for all of his 15 appearances for the Pirates last season. Dumatrait was 0-2 with a 6.92 ERA last season and for his career is 3-10 with a 7.06 ERA in 42 games.

--RF Magglio Ordonez has a $15 million club option for 2011 that automatically kicks in if he gets either 135 starts or 540 plate appearances in 2010. If Ordonez does not meet those targets, the Tigers can choose to decline the option. His power declined sharply last season, but Ordonez finished strong to reach .300 for the third consecutive season and 10th time in his 13-year career.

--C Dusty Ryan, one of two players Detroit designated for assignment following the winter meetings, was traded to the San Diego Padres on Dec. 21 for either cash or a player to be named. The Tigers needed two roster spaces after acquiring four players and trading two during the meetings earlier this month, and Ryan had been passed on the Detroit depth chart. Ryan, 25, batted .154 with four RBI in 12 games with Detroit after hitting .257 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI in 63 games for Triple-A Toledo. He totaled 27 games with the Tigers over the last two years, hitting .257 with two home runs and 11 RBI. Ryan was selected by the Tigers in the 48th round of the 2003 draft out of Merced Junior College in California.

--SS Adam Everett, who recently re-signed for one season with Detroit, was selected the best defensive shortstop of the decade by ESPN. Everett is not particularly distinguished at the plate and has never won a Gold Glove. ESPN's Rob Neyer wrote, "Everett has never started 150 games in a season. He's started more than 120 games in a season only twice. That's the best explanation for Everett's failure to win even a single Gold Glove: The voters prefer every-day players. And they particularly like every-day players who can hit a little. That's just not Adam Everett. But despite his lack of playing time, he easily saved more runs in this decade than any other shortstop: 87 runs -- and 18 runs per 150 games."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- New managers Detroit will have in its minor league system this season after announcing its managers and coaches for the 2010 season recently. The promotion of Tom Brookens to the Tigers' major league staff left an opening at Double-A Erie, which was filled by the hiring of former Tiger Phil Nevin. The remaining Detroit minor league managers return to the positions they held last season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think what we've done well through our time is bring in young players and develop them and bring them up. We kind of got away from it because we were just in a position where (we asked), 'What can we do to get this final piece?' And I think that this gives us an opportunity to go back to building like we would like and set the foundation." -- General manager Dave Dombrowski in rationalizing Detroit's trading of CF Curtis Granderson and RHP Edwin Jackson, both All-Stars, for four young players.

Cost-conscious Detroit traded its two most marketable players, CF Curtis Granderson and RHP Edwin Jackson, and got four young roster members in return -- RHP Max Scherzer, LHP Daniel Schlereth, LHP Phil Coke and CF Austin Jackson. The Tigers will also feature a new second baseman, rookie Scott Sizemore, after not offering arbitration to incumbent 2B Placido Polanco and watching him sign a three-year deal with Philadelphia. The departure of closer Fernando Rodney and setup man Brandon Lyon means the Tigers will be pressured to rework the bullpen. SS Adam Everett was re-signed, but who hits first and second will be a spring-long search.

BIGGEST NEEDS: A weak 2009 offense wasn't helped with the departure of its leadoff (CF Curtis Granderson) and No. 2 hitters (2B Placido Polanco), and the replacements make the lineup way too right-handed. An established closer would ease the transition for a bullpen of young, hard-throwing arms.

ARRIVALS: RHP Max Scherzer (trade with Diamondbacks), LHP Daniel Schlereth (trade with Diamondbacks), LHP Phil Coke (trade with Yankees), OF Austin Jackson (trade with Yankees), LHP Phil Dumatrait (minor league free agent from Pirates).

DEPARTURES: RHP Brandon Lyon (free agent, signed with Astros), CF Curtis Granderson (traded to Yankees), RHP Edwin Jackson (traded to Diamondbacks), 2B Placido Polanco (free agent, signed with Phillies), C Dusty Ryan (traded to Padres), RHP Freddy Dolsi (claimed off waivers by White Sox), C Matt Treanor (free agent, signed minor league deal with Brewers), RHP Fernando Rodney (free agent, signed with Angels).

FREE AGENTS: LHP Jarrod Washburn, DH Aubrey Huff, OF/DH Marcus Thames. None is expected to return.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: C Gerald Laird, RHP Zach Miner, LHP Bobby Seay, RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Joel Zumaya.

Detroit is inclined to sign Verlander long-term, but the others probably will get only one-year contracts at this time.

IN LIMBO:,/b> Players who could be on the trade market include RHP Armando Galarraga, RHP Eddie Bonine, LHP Nate Robertson and LHP Dontrelle Willis. However, it's hard to imagine Willis attracting much interest given his recent history of injuries and poor pitching.

RHP Joel Zumaya (bone fragment removal, right shoulder stress fracture) has finished medical rehab and is on a regular offseason training program.

3B Brandon Inge (patella tendon surgery on both knees) should be off crutches and will begin work to regain his range of motion before starting a strength and conditioning program that should have him ready for spring training.

LHP Dontrelle Willis continues to recuperate from anxiety disorder.

2B Scott Sizemore (broken left ankle) should be in a walking boot during the holidays and will begin rehab so he can be ready for spring training. LHP Jarrod Washburn (arthroscopic left knee surgery in October 2009) is expected to be ready for spring training.

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