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Don Kelly in good position to be Tigers' 25th man

Theoretically, anyone left in the Tigers' camp could make the 25-man roster. In reality, there's only about four positional players who are in the running for the 25th roster spot.

And before I delve too far into it, I'd like to point out we can debate about the 25th man until we're blue in the face, but in reality it's not all that important unless it's your career being discussed. None of these moves will make or break the season, and it's probable the opening day roster will be reshuffled by the end of April.

But hey, it's spring training and this is a blog, so this is what we do!

The central players in this debate: OF Clete Thomas, IF Don Kelly, IF Jeff Larish and IF Brent Dlugach. Not all infielders are created equal, of course, so a quick sketch of the players:

Kelly: Can play second base and third base capably. Also an outfielder.

Larish: Can play first and third base, but has less experience as a third baseman. Doesn't do it real great.

Dlugach: Can play both middle infield spots and third base.

Thomas: Can play all three outfield positions. Seems more comfortable in right field than left, though.

Ryan Raburn: He's on the team, but I just want to tell you, just because he has played second base years ago in the minor leagues does not make him a second baseman. He was not all that pretty as a third baseman either, but he can play there. He's really best as an outfielder.

Tigers and Mudhens positional players

Tigers infielders

Tigers outfielders

Mudhens infielders

Mudhens outfielders

Players to add to the teams:

1B Miguel Cabrera RF Magglio Ordonez 1B? Ryan Strieby RF Brennan Boesch IF/OF Don Kelly
2B Scott Sizemore CF Austin Jackson 2B CF Casper Wells OF Clete Thomas
3B Brandon Inge LF Johnny Damon 3B LF IF Brent Dlugach
SS Adam Everett 4th Ryan Raburn SS Cale Iorg? 4th? Ryan Strieby IF Jeff Larish
Util Ramon Santiago OF/DH Carlos Guillen IF/OF Kory Casto ? OF Wilkin Ramirez

The Tigers roster must equal 11, given there are two catchers. Toledo's isn't as important. And don't worry if you can't fill in every position for Toledo, there's always minor league players to fill in the holes.

Everyone listed with a team is a pretty safe bet to be with that team. Yes, I realize Adam Everett hasn't hit the ball this month. But the Tigers knew what they were doing in signing him for his glove. He's safe. Santiago, too, is safe.

Looking at the possible roster versions using both Detroit and Toledo, including looking at options remaining, helped give me an idea what would be ideal for creating roster flexibility and enough playing time for the bunch of prospects stacking up in Toledo.

The key problem in solving this: Toledo's outfield is a mess of too many names and too little playing time, with Ryan Strieby, Brennan Boesch and Casper Wells already in Toledo, probably joined by Wilkin Ramirez and possibly by Clete Thomas. Unless there's a trade, anyway, which is looking more and more likely to me. Admitting Strieby is a first baseman would be a good first step.

Past that, here is what I come up with for the contenders:

25th man


Best jack-of-all-trades

IF/OF Don Kelly

Argument for: Kelly has no options remaining and may be lost. He's had a nice spring and fields quite a few positions, including both second and third base, where Scott Sizemore and Brandon Inge are returning from injuries and may need more time off. And he bats left handed, giving flexibility to a RH heavy roster.

Argument against: Kelly has not made the most of his major league time in the past, which should weigh more heavily than their spring training results. He's a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. He's probably not a real in-demand player and getting him through waivers may not be that difficult.

Best infield help

IF Brent Dlugach

Arguments for: Solid infield defense at three positions is good insurance for second and third bases. Possible he may be able to hit decently. He'd had a nice spring.

Arguments against: Why do something possibly irreversible in losing a useful utility player like Kelly when there's room to stash Dlugach away in Toledo until an opportunity for more consistent playing time arises due to injury or at the end of this season?

Best defensive replacement

OF Clete Thomas

Argument for: Thomas is the best outfield defensive replacement available, primarily for Magglio Ordonez, but also for Johnny Damon if necessary. He bats left handed. He has speed as a pinch runner, too. He seems to be hitting better this spring training session. This also ensure the Mud Hens do not have too many outfielders competing for playing time.

Argument against: Too many outfielders in Detroit. Didn't hit real well in his last major league opportunity. Has option available.

Best batter:

IF Jeff Larish

Arguments for: Gives the Tigers a powerful left-handed bat off the bench, which provides some late-innings flexibility. Has the potential to be a good batter. Can maybe play some third base.

Arguments against: Has option available. Has never lived up to potential in prior opportunities, and will not have consistent playing time on this current Tigers roster either. Next year might be a better chance for him.

Almost no shot

OF Wilkin Ramirez

Argument for: Has decent tools. Should be able to run for speed, hit for power and play capable corner outfield defense.

Argument against: Has to work on the breaking pitch, could use consistent work in the minors until next season.

My best bet? I think it's likely Kelly who makes the roster. But if not, it's probably Dlugach for the infield insurance policy. I'd like to see the Tigers have better outfield defense with Thomas there, but it doesn't make sense until Inge and Sizemore are completely healthy and can handle the playing time.

I don't know what Detroit will do about Toledo's too many outfielders, but a trade could happen there. Or maybe a trade of Kelly is possible, too, though like I said I don't think there's great demand out there. Maybe in the NL. You never know.

I think it's too early to say with any confidence what the Tigers are going to do.