The Detroit Tigers’ bullpen logjam just became a bit clearer on Sunday. With one week remaining until Opening Day, the Tigers announced several cuts, including the unconditional release of right-handed reliever Mark Lowe. The Tigers also reassigned several other players to minor league camp, including righthanders Joe Jimenez, upstart reliever Arcenio Leon, and center fielder Anthony Gose. Catcher John Hicks was optioned to Triple-A Toledo.
Lowe was set to enter the second and final year of an $11 million contract. He was an unmitigated disaster in year one, allowing a 7.11 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in 49 1⁄3 innings. He began the season as the primary setup man to closer Francisco Rodriguez, but was taken out of high leverage situations by early June. Lowe saw a sharp drop in his strikeout rate from 2015 to 2016, as he fanned just 21.9 percent of hitters last season. He is due $5.5 million in 2017.
Lowe’s release comes just a day after he imploded in a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He allowed three runs in an inning of work. While only one run was earned, it raised his ERA to 5.19 in 8 2⁄3 innings this spring. He has allowed 11 hits, including two home runs, during that span.
Jimenez did not spend much time in major league camp this spring, instead pitching for Team Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic. He was impressive at times, but still showed flashes of inconsistency with his fastball and slider. The Tigers’ top-rated relief prospect will likely start the season at Triple-A Toledo, and should make his major league debut in 2017. He has been on Tigers’ fans radar for a while now, but especially after a dominant 2016 season in which he limited opponents to a 1.51 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 53 2⁄3 innings across three minor league levels.
Anthony Gose made waves early in spring training, but a lackluster performance at the plate took him out of the running for the starting job in center field. He hit .237/.275/.289 in 38 at-bats. Gose passed through waivers and was taken off the 40-man roster this winter, following a 2016 campaign in which he struggled at the major league level. He hit .209/.287/.341 last year, and was optioned to the minor leagues in May.
Arcenio Leon was a surprise addition to the Tigers’ spring training roster. He was signed from Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League in October 2016, and pitched for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. He posted a 3.30 ERA and 2.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 62 2⁄3 innings in Mexico last year.
Lowe’s departure likely cements the status of both Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey on the Opening Day roster. Sanchez has made a push for the fifth starter’s role of late, including a dominant, six no-hit inning performance against the Pirates on Saturday. Pelfrey has struggled during spring training, allowing a 7.90 ERA through 13 2⁄3 innings. He and the Tigers have continued to work on making adjustments throughout the last month.
Here is the full list of players cut from major league camp: Mark Lowe, Joe Jimenez, Arcenio Leon, Anthony Gose, Edward Mujica, Ruben Alaniz, Logan Kensing, Dominic Ficociello, Juan Perez, John Hicks.
The Tigers have 36 players remaining in major league camp. With J.D. Martinez certain to open the season on the disabled list, they have to reduce that number to 26 by Sunday, April 2.