The inexplicable Armando Galarraga was optioned to Triple-A Toledo today, as the Tigers made just their second round of roster moves during this spring training camp. Also, pitchers Jay Sborz and Jacob Turner were sent out -- Sborz to Toledo, Turner to Single-A West Michigan. (That should make the prospect watchers in the state happy.)
The other news of the day had to do with injuries: Bobby Seay's bursistis will probably cost him a chance to break camp with the Tigers. Manager Jim Leyland told the media:
"We're not prepared at this time to say whether (Miner) will or won't be ready -- but in the opinion of all our people so far, it's not impossible, but it's doubtful Seay will be ready."
And finally, Zach Miner is feeling some elbow pain, though it is not said to be serious. (While this always sounds good, the initial reports the Tigers give the media have been overly rosy so often, I think the best thing to do is to watch and see rather than accept it at face value.)
So what does this mean for the Tigers' possible 25-man roster?
You want the short version? If camp broke today, I think the pitching side of the roster would look like this:
Starters: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman. Dontrelle Willis to the DL for some reason or another.
Bullpen: Jose Valverde, Ryan Perry, Joel Zumaya, Phil Coke, Robbie Weinhardt, Fu-Te Ni, Zach Miner/Eddie Bonine
And now, the explanations:
I thought all along Galarraga was a long shot to make the Tigers' roster. The main reason for that is, he isn't particularly exciting as a pitcher. Since his luck-driven 2008 season, he's come back to earth. Actually, that might even be a misnomer. He's started digging a hole right into the earth ever since about last May.
And then we have the matter of his having an option available. (Credit the Tigers with sending him down to Toledo at the right time last August so as to avoid burning up his final option while allowing him to get some work in.) With Jeremy Bonderman assumed to be in the starting rotation and lefties Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis both owed a load of money while attempting comeback seasons, Galarraga was in a bad place to starter.
Galarraga did nothing to change things on the field this spring, and one imagines he did little off the field either.
Based on a recent quote from Leyland, Galarraga must work on his control to earn his way back to the team. Leyland told the media:
"He threw the ball fine, but his command was inconsistent."
The battle for the rotation, practically speaking, is now Willis, Robertson and Bonderman fighting for two spots. Bonderman just isn't doing enough to assure his spot is safe. Longshots Phil Coke and Eddie Bonine seem to have transitioned into bullpen roles, as Leyland is limiting them to about an inning per appearance. While Willis would appear to be a favorite to make the rotation, along with Nate Robertson, it's hard to figure out what the Tigers do with Jeremy Bonderman if that happens. More likely, I think something will still unravel Willis' rotation bid before April 5.
The second point is what happens if Miner's injury turns out to be something that lingers a bit longer, Bonine is in favorable position to win a spot in the roster as the long reliever.
The third point is more interesting: Who makes the bullpen in April if Seay is not ready?
Do not automatically assume it will be a left-hander. The best argument for Leyland taking three lefties north is that they are his three best options in the bullpen. Neither Fu-Te Ni nor Phil Coke is having a great spring between the lines, but I don't know if that particularly means much right now.
Coke is safer than Ni, but both have options remaining and could lose out to Aussie-import Brad Thomas. Thomas has no options and will be owed a decent portion of his contract -- reported to be $1 million in December. It would fit the Tigers' M.O. to give a veteran player the benefit of the doubt before releasing him a month into the season if he doesn't perform. Of course, Thomas has walked five batters in six innings, which can't make the manager happy.
So to me, the most interesting figure right now is Robbie Weinhardt. You have to figure he's penciled in as the closer for Toledo at this point in time. The TIgers have used him in the ninth inning this spring, too. But at the same time, Seay's injury does open the door for giving him a spot pitching in the sixth or seventh inning. The best thing going for him? He has given up just one walk in five innings. If the Tigers decide to go with the talent, I think Weinhardt makes it. Or else it's Thomas.