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Detroit Tigers' 25-man roster projection: Collin Balester playing his way north

Ramon Santiago has seen a lot more action at shortstop this year than at second base, though we know he's perfectly capable of playing either position.
Ramon Santiago has seen a lot more action at shortstop this year than at second base, though we know he's perfectly capable of playing either position.

Last Tuesday, I issued my first attempt at guessing the Tigers' 25-man roster. There was little to quibble with, as people agreed on 23 or 24 of the selections (even if they didn't like them.) After a disastrous appearance by one Tigers reliever and the continued decent play of another, I made the change. David Pauley is off, Collin Balester is on.

Outside of that, a few things to note. Brandon Inge continues to play well enough to continue his career in Detroit, while continue to get Ryan Raburn as many reps at second base as they can while Ramon Santiago has worked mainly at shortstop.

There are few changes in the roster, but plenty of notes about jostling on the undercard, so keep reading.

Starting pitchers (5)

  1. Justin Verlander - RHP
  2. Doug Fister - RHP
  3. Max Scherzer - RHP
  4. Rick Porcello - RHP
  5. Duane Below - LHP
No changes in my rotation. If anything, I feel like Britton, Mich., native and left-hander Duane Below is on more solid ground. We saw both LHP Casey Crosby and RHP Jacob Turner show some of their cracks in games this week, as both struggled with their command. Both are obviously good prospects, but with no reason to rush them to the big leagues the Tigers shouldn't do it unless they're absolutely blown away. That doesn't seem to be the case yet. One player to keep an eye on is LHP Drew Smyly, who was scheduled to pitch Sunday against Houston in Kissimmee. Tigers manager Jim Leyland chose that split-squad team to travel with, because he wanted an opportunity to watch Smyly in person.

Relief pitchers (7)
  1. Jose Valverde (RHP, closer)
  2. Joaquin Benoit (RHP, setup)
  3. Octavio Dotel (RHP, 7th)
  4. Phil Coke (LHP, 7th)
  5. Daniel Schlereth (LHP)
  6. Collin Balester (RHP)
  7. Adam Wilk (LHP, long relief)
This is where my big change occur this week. Really, this may not be decided until the final days of camp. The top five seem set in stone, then it gets murky. Who's throwing well and fits into strategy? LHP Adam Wilk still makes sense as a long reliever, but he still has to play his way in. I'm dropping RHP David Pauley this year. It's too early to say he won't get the job, but he hasn't helped his case. I'm penciling in RHP Collin Balester for now, but I'm not real impressed with what he did with the Nationals and hope he's showing something better to the Tigers' staff. Keep an eye on Chris Bootcheck, too. The Tigers sure are. He's already made four appearances and done well in each. My sleeper is RHP Luis Marte.

Catchers (2)
  1. Alex Avila -- LHB
  2. Gerald Laird - RHB
Obviously these remain set in stone.

Infielders (6)
  1. Prince Fielder (LHB, 1st base)
  2. Jhonny Peralta (RHB, SS)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, RHB, 3rd)
  4. Ramon Santiago, (S, INF)
  5. Brandon Inge (RHB, INF)
  6. Ryan Raburn (RHB, INF)
Sorry, Inge-haters. But he's done nothing to play his way off the team. I think he's in. The starter at second base is yet to be decided. It sure looks like the Tigers are giving Ryan Raburn the opportunity to be that man. He has played second in four of his five games. He played DH in the other game. No outfield yet. Ramon Santiago has appeared in six games: five at shortstop, one at second base.

Outfielder (4)
  1. Brennan Boesch (LHB, RF)
  2. Austin Jackson* (RHB, CF)
  3. Delmon Young (RHB, LF)
  4. Andy Dirks (LHB, OF)
Clete Thomas and Andy Dirks are both getting plenty of opportunity to show what they can do. Both are left-handed batters. Thomas is a better fielder. Dirks seems to be a better batter. Dirks has options, Thomas doesn't. I still feel like Dirks leads here.

* I don't know why Austin Jackson's name isn't auto-tagging but have put in a support ticket.

Don Kelly (1)
  1. Don Kelly (S, util)
Don Kelly has played in five games. He's been at first base in all of them, splitting some time in the outfield in a couple of those games.