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Detroit Tigers' bullpen focal point of remaining roster battles

Five relievers are in the battle for two -- maybe three -- positions in Detroit's bullpen as the Tigers work to trim their roster to 25.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

As spring training winds down, roster cuts have started and regular players are going deeper into games. The Detroit Tigers made a point of focusing on stabilizing the bullpen in the offseason, so much so that, of the 57 players who reported to spring training, 18 were relievers. The 25-man roster is quickly taking shape, but there are still spots available in the bullpen.

Currently the Tigers have 39 players in major league camp and there are 14 players who still need to be cut before Opening Day. Of the final five slots available, one is taken up at catcher and there is stiff competition for the ongoing bullpen situation. None of the bullpen locks are left-handed pitchers, but of the five relievers still battling for the last two -- or even three, as Ausmus has hinted at -- bullpen spots, four are lefties.

Tom Gorzelanny seems to be the favorite to claim one of the final spots, despite a rough spring, simply because of his veteran status. The lone righty, Angel Nesbitt, has surprised many in camp, including Ausmus. Nesbitt, who was placed on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, has performed well enough to become a legitimate contender for the bullpen.

Ausmus has said he would prefer to take more than one left-handed pitcher to Detroit, but none of the four options have been impressive this spring. Aside from Gorzelanny, Kyle Ryan is at the forefront of the conversation to take up a second left-handed spot. The bullpen remains full of question marks and it may not be sorted out until the very end of spring training. Even then, don't be surprised if the team continues to juggle players around as the team heads into the season.

While the Tigers sort through the multitude of bullpen arms, there are still position player slots open. James McCann appears to be the easy front runner for the second back stop position. Bryan Holaday, who has not been dependable behind the plate this spring, may have hit a grand slam during Tuesday's game, but his defense leaves much to be desired, as does his overall offense.

With the future of Alex Avila uncertain beyond the 2015 season, the Tigers are going to want to see exactly what they have in McCann. Therefore, unless Holaday is able to sway Ausmus in the final 10 days of spring training, expect to see McCann with the Tigers when they head north in just under two weeks. In the meantime, however, both remain in competition for the final spot because nothing is certain until one is sent to the minor leagues.

As for Hernan Perez, Andrew Romine, and Tyler Collins they are all battling for what was once thought to be the last remaining spot. However, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus hasn't closed the door on bringing both Perez and Romine to Detroit. While Collins provides some pop off the bench as a pinch hitter, Ausmus said he sees more value in a strong defense and providing versatility beyond the batter's box.

The thing with taking Collins and either Perez and Romine instead of Perez and Romine, is you have to consider how often Collins will perform off the bench. If he isn't given enough at-bats, his offense could die then the Tigers are left with a weak bat and they're short on defensive options.

Assigned to Triple-A Toledo:

Right-handed pitchers: Jose Valdez, Drew VerHagen, Alex Wilson, Josh Zeid, Buck Farmer

Left-handed pitcher: Kyle Lobstein

Infielder: Dixon Machado

Outfielders: Daniel Fields, Steven Moya.

Assigned to Double-A Erie:

OF Wynton Bernard


Updated roster matrix

Note that right-handed pitcher Joel Hanrahan is not in this chart. He was released on March 4 after the Tigers were informed he would need Tommy John surgery for the second time.