Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
Assuming the first three spots on the bench are going to one of the backup catchers, Ramon Santiago, and Ryan Raburn, really, only two questions have to be answered. How badly do you want a power left-handed bat coming off the bench, and do you see Raburn focusing his time in the outfield or back in the infield? If the Tigers want that power bat, the obvious choice is Jeff Larish, the biggest problem with Larish is that he lacks the defensive versatility typically desired for someone in the last spot on the bench. With the second question, it seems relatively certain that the Tigers expect Raburn in the outfield most of the time, which gives a clear advantage to Don Kelly over Clete Thomas, given his ability to play the infield, especially third base. Based on that desire to have versatility at the back end and a need to have a viable replacement on the roster for Brandon Inge (while still having the up the middle players covered), it seems clear that Kelly is the clear favorite to win the job.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
It is always amusing the level of effort analysts like us here at TigsTown put into trying to figure out the proverbial 25th man. It really is amusing, because if this player has a significant impact on the outcome of the team's season, then something has likely gone drastically wrong at some point. That said, on a roster largely already decided based on need and contractual status, the 25th spot on the roster is really the only point remaining for debate. At this point, if we assume Raburn, Santiago, and a backup catcher are on the bench, that last spot is up for grabs between a collection of players like Clete Thomas, Jeff Larish, Brent Dlugach, and Don Kelly. Dlugach is generally a redundant piece. Thomas is as well given the spring success of Austin Jackson. Larish isn't on the 40-man roster but that wouldn't be a huge hurdle considering Kelly would be out-righted if sent to the minor leagues. Kelly on the other hand offers defensive flexibility and speed, something sorely lacking on the current roster. He has to be the overwhelming current favorite for the last spot, unless somone like Raburn or Santiago are shipped out over the coming days.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I think a lot will depend on how Ryan Raburn handles playing the infield. If Raburn becomes a legitimate option as an infielder, he would give the team a second reserve along with Ramon Santiago that would give Jim Leyland more options there. Both Don Kelly and Clete Thomas have had good springs swinging the bat, but Kelly can also play the infield, so that does give him an advantage from a versatility standpoint, and I think that makes him the favorite as of now to win the final roster spot. However, how the Tigers view Raburn could very well determine who winds up with the last spot.
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