The Tigers now have 29 healthy players in camp competing for 25 major league jobs, including four non-roster invitees trying to forge their way onto the roster by Opening Day.
There are actually 32 players left in major league camp in Lakeland, but three of those -- Andy Dirks, Bruce Rondon, and Jose Iglesias -- will soon be on the disabled list. Another four non-roster invitees -- infielder Danny Worth, outfielder Tyler Collins, and relief pitchers Blaine Hardy, and Jhan Marinez -- are still hopeful.
The roster decisions appear to be coming down to three matchups. In left field, Rajai Davis, who has been battling an injury and is expected back Monday, should get the start against left handed pitchers, but that's just about 30% of the time. The other 70% is up for grabs, with Davis, Don Kelly, and Steve Lombardozzi on the roster vying for playing time, and Collins still in the mix.
Davis has been hot this spring, but has a very poor track record against right-handed pitching. Neither Kelly nor Lombardozzi are legitimate major league starters, and certainly don't have the kind of offensive pop that teams need in a left fielder. Collins has hit very well, giving the club apparently it's only possibility of even decent offensive output from the position. The club announced that former Indians Trevor Crowe and Ezequiel Carrera have been reassigned to minor league camp.
Just to add a twist to the saga, Don Kelly came up lame with an apparent hamstring injury on Sunday. If it's a serious injury, that could force a decision to put him on the disabled list and keep both Collins and Lombardozzi on the roster. Prior to the injury, Kelly seemed on the verge of keeping a roster spot once again, hitting over .300.
Andrew Romine will be the starting shortstop most games, at least against right-handed pitchers, while there is an opening for a right-handed bat to take some of the time. Although Romine is a switch hitter, he is not much offensively from either side of the plate. Worth and Hernan Perez are vying for one roster spot, with the winner likely to start against left-handers. Worth has easily had the better spring of the two, and helped his cause with a three run homer on Sunday.
Steve Lombardozzi's role in the infield is becoming a mystery. Comments from the Tigers have indicated that they think he can play shortstop, but that was when Jose Iglesias was expected to start almost every game. It doesn't look like the club is willing to entrust every third or fourth start to Lombardozzi, who has just two games at shortstop in his major league career, and didn't play much there in the minors, either. As a switch hitter, Lombardozzi could be in the mix to start against left handers at shortstop, but against right handers in left field.
Kelly and Romine can not be optioned to the minors without clearing waivers. Lombardozzi and Perez have options remaining, while Collins and Worth are not on the roster, so they would not need to clear waivers. The bet here is that Worth will get the job as the club wants Perez to play every day.
In the bullpen, Jeff Jones did a live interview for the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast during Sunday's game, and he was asked about how the club would replace Bruce Rondon, who is out for Tommy John surgery. Jones said that Rondon was set to be in a setup role, and he mentioned Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain, Evan Reed, Luke Putkonen, and Ian Krol specifically, saying that he felt they could fill the roles internally. He did not mention Phil Coke.
This brings us to the last roster decision. Left-hander Blaine Hardy has gotten some attention this spring, but has not been lights out, giving up eight runs, three earned, in 10 innings of work entering Sunday's action. His presence is an indication that Coke, who has pitched poorly most of the spring, does not have a bullpen job secured. Coke would have to be waived before being sent to the minors, but the club would most likely release him if he doesn't make the team. He was scheduled to pitch Sunday, but was "under the weather" according to the Fox report.
Of course, the Tigers could still make a trade, or a signing before Opening Day. In that department, Jose Mijares has opted out of his contract with the Boston Red Sox and is a free agent. Mijares had a rough year in 2013 with the Giants, but he also had an astronomical .410 average on balls in play. That's the highest in the majors. Since he has no history of a high BABIP, there has to be a huge amount of bad luck in his numbers. Just sayin'...