The Tigers reduced their spring training roster to 30 players today, sending three players to minor league camp and sending right-handed reliever Luke Putkonen to Triple A Toledo. Sent to Tiger Town were left-handed pitcher Jose Alvarez, catcher Brad Davis and utility man Kevin Russo.
Putkonen being sent to Toledo confirms Drew Smyly will start the season in the Tigers' bullpen.
Putkonen was in the mix to make the Tigers as long reliever, but a slow start (allowing seven runs in his first three appearances) all but ended his chances of going north with the squad. Putkonen posted a 3.95 ERA in 10 games this spring, and was 0-2, 3.94 in 12 relief appearances with the Tigers in 2012. Putkonen is expected to start the season in the Mud Hens' rotation.
Singed as a minor league free agent, the right-hand hitting Russo was a candidate to make the team in a utility role. He made a compelling case, hitting .308/.333/.564 in 21 games and his career Triple A splits of .336/.407/.433 against left-handed pitching are even more compelling. But from all accounts, Don Kelly has the inside track as the utility man.
Alvarez pitched well this spring, putting up a 2.79 ERA and three saves in nine appearances. But when Alvarez was signed as a minor league free agent this past off season, it would have been a surprise if the career minor leaguer had ended up anywhere but in the Mud Hens' rotation. Alvarez spent the last two seasons as a starting pitcher for Double A Jacksonville in the Miami Marlins system, posting a 6-9 record with a 4.22 ERA in 2012.
Davis received limited duty with the big club this spring; 1 for 10 with a walk in ten games. A light-hitting catcher, the 28 year old Davis was picked up in exchange for cash considerations from the Marlins in July 2012. Splitting his season between the Tacoma Rainiers and New Orleans Zephyrs of the PCL, along with the Mud Hens, Davis hit .196/.258/.291 in 61 games. He's ticketed for another season as one of the the Tigers' Triple A backstops.