The Detroit Tigers' bullpen is set -- sorta. The team announced a final round of minor league reassignments on Friday, leaving seven relievers in major league camp but only 24 players on the 25 man roster. They could be close to acquiring one final piece to the pen before being set -- at least according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports -- but the Tigers dismiss that rumor.
Dave Dombrowski on the rumor this morning regarding reliever: "I don't know where that would even come from."— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) April 3, 2015
Dombrowski: Tigers aren't actively pursuing any moves. "I would be really surprised if that happens," he said.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) April 3, 2015
So, here's a look at the Tigers bullpen, as it currently stands:
Closer: Joe Nathan
Setup: Joakim Soria
Righty: Al Alburqurque
Righty: Joba Chamberlain
Righty: Angel Nesbitt
Lefty: Tom Gorzelanny
Lefty: Ian Krol
Normally you expect a team to go carry 13 position players, five starting pitchers and seven relievers. Which would leave no room for anyone else unless an additional transaction knocked one of those seven out of their spot. But nagging soreness felt by a pair of likely roster locks coupled with an off day in the first week of the season opens the door to the reconfigured 'pen.
Justin Verlander's spot on the Opening Day roster is in doubt after suffering a cramp in the triceps of his throwing arm last Friday during his start. The Tigers can roll with a four-member rotation for the first eight games -- nine days -- of the season because of that, creating room to carry another bullpen member.
According to Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, who spoke with reporters Friday, the decision on who'll get the Tigers' 25th roster spot comes down to Verlander's health. Verlander does not actually have to be placed on the disabled list until Tuesday. The Verlander decision changes everything.
As explained by Iott (and seriously, go read the whole thing):
Any player the Tigers optioned to the minor leagues this spring cannot be called up until April 15 unless they are promoted to replace a player who is headed to the disabled list. Therefore, the Tigers have to be 100 percent sure Verlander can make that scheduled April 12 start before replacing him with a relief pitcher. If they have any doubt that he can make that start, they will need to replace him with a starter when they put him on the disabled list.
So the Tigers can't replace Verlander with a relief pitcher unless they're certain Verlander will then replace that relief pitcher on April 12.
Confusing, yes. Baseball transaction rules can drive you wild.
Meanwhile Bruce Rondon, returning from Tommy John Surgery, had soreness in his right shoulder. After an MRI it was deemed right biceps tendinitis. The Tigers are being cautious, rightfully so, and had more recently talked about sending him to the minors to begin the year even before the injury.
Finally, let's talk about the 24-year-old Nesbitt. There seems to be a story like his every season, of a player you don't know putting up a good performance during spring training to make the club. (And *that* is why spring training matters.) A year ago he opened the season with the High-A Flying Tigers in Lakeland. After carrying an ERA of less than 1 through 24 games, he was promoted to Double-A Erie, where he finished his season with a 2.24 ERA through an additional 24 games. He struck out 72 in 67 innings, combined between the stops.
Early in camp this year Nesbitt's name didn't come up. But a firey fastball that helped him strike out nine in 13 innings this spring was enough to get him his first trip to the majors.
All of this leads us to one wonderful realization: Opening Day is Monday, just three nights away.
[updated throughout: noon]