Two spots up for grabs on Tigers roster
One position spot, one bullpen slot left to fill for Leyland
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers head into their final hours of Spring Training with just one position spot and one bullpen slot left to fill. Filling those two holes, however, could take until the end of camp.
"I don't know who the 25th player is for sure," manager Jim Leyland said after Tuesday night's win over the Astros, "and I definitely do not know who the 12th pitcher is for sure. That's all I can tell you. You can speculate all you want. You might be right. Take a guess. And if you're right, you'll look smart."
While the in-house candidates for the bullpen role appear to be down to Yorman Bazardo and Aquilino Lopez, the Tigers continue to scout possible deals that would bring in another arm. However, most of the relievers on the block around baseball are those that did not make their respective team's bullpen.
Both Bazardo and Lopez are out of Minor League options, so the Tigers would have to pass them through waivers if they try to send them to Triple-A Toledo. Given Bazardo's relatively young age of 23 and his performance last year between the Tigers and Mud Hens, getting him through would appear unlikely.
Though Francis Beltran was assigned to Minor League camp on Tuesday, he remains with the club and will travel with the Tigers to Houston before he begins the season with Toledo.
The rest of the bullpen remains set with closer Todd Jones, left-handers Tim Byrdak and Bobby Seay, and right-handers Denny Bautista, Jason Grilli and Zach Miner. Leyland indicated that Byrdak's struggles -- he allowed four walks and a single without retiring a batter on Tuesday after being charged with eight runs over his previous two outings -- will not affect his spot on the club.
"Right now, Tim Byrdak is on this team," Leyland said.
Filling out the positional roster was pretty much set until Curtis Granderson's injury over the weekend. Though Brandon Inge is set to fill Granderson's starting spot in center, unless Inge is traded, Granderson's DL stint opened a spot on the roster for someone. That role isn't quite so clear-cut, since it'll be a spot on the bench.
Speedy center fielder Freddy Guzman remains a candidate for that role. Though he wouldn't be expected to be used much as a pinch-runner, he could end up playing center at least on occasion, supplying some defensive ability as a backup or timeshare with Inge.
The Tigers could also go the opposite route and keep Dane Sardinha as a dedicated backup catcher, taking that role off of Inge's shoulders and easing Leyland's worries about losing his starting center fielder on a foul tip or some other innocent play behind the plate. Leyland has wanted to get Inge some time at catcher this week, but doesn't want to risk such an injury.
The alternative to both moves would be to recall one of the players whom the Tigers already sent to the Minor Leagues. Detroit optioned out Brent Clevlen a week ago, but his ability to play solid defense in all three outfield spots and his power bat off the bench could have some appeal to bring back. Meanwhile, Clete Thomas appeared again with the big club on Tuesday as an added player from Minor League camp.
One outfielder who is not a candidate is Timo Perez, who was assigned to Minor League camp on Tuesday. Corner infielder Mike Hessman also was told that he won't make the Opening Day roster, but he must pass through waivers before the Tigers can send him to Toledo.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.