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Grandyland Returns, While Clete Gets Squeezed

As expected, Curtis Granderson will rejoin the Detroit Tigers lineup tonight, stepping into his regular spots in center field and the leadoff spot of the batting order. (He reminisces about that rehab assignment today on his ESPN.com blog.)

With Granderson's inevitable return, the question became who would get squeezed off the roster to clear a spot for him. Maybe it was obvious all along that Clete Thomas would draw the short straw, based on his available minor league options and the investment that the Tigers have made in veterans Jacque Jones and Marcus Thames. Plus, Ryan Raburn already had to shuttle down I-75 to Toledo earlier in the year when Francis Beltran was called up. His versatility probably makes him a little more appealing to Jim Leyland at this point.

Sure enough, that's exactly what happened this afternoon, as Thomas was optioned to Triple-A while Granderson was activated. I understand it's really the only decision the Tigers could make, especially this early in the season, but I still think it kind of stinks. And not just because it affects the ever-growing profile of Clete's Cult. Before the Tigers began playing up to their capabilities and expectations, Thomas provided one of the few shining lights when things were looking particularly grim earlier this month. I also like his left-handed bat in the lineup, especially when it's providing more punch than Jones had been until recently.

But if the Tigers had come out of Spring Training healthy to begin the season, Thomas would've been with the Mud Hens and we might not realize what kind of player he is anyway (other than knowing that Leyland was impressed with him in Lakeland). But I don't think we've seen the last of Clete in Detroit this year, especially if Jones doesn't start pushing his batting average far above .200 and maybe start showing a little home run pop.