With exactly a week remaining until Opening Day, the final shape of the Tigers’ 25 man roster is resolving into clarity. The team announced numerous re-assignments on Thursday morning that leave just a few roster questions unanswered.
The most obvious fallout is the fact that John Hicks is locked in as the Tigers’ backup catcher to begin the season. Veterans Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Derek Norris have been assigned to minor league camp. It remains to be seen if one or both will end up starting the season with the Toledo Mud Hens, or if they’ll be released.
In the bullpen, left-handers Blaine Hardy and Chad Bell have been assigned to the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. The move is a bit surprising in that it appears Daniel Stumpf will be the only left-handed pitcher in the bullpen as the season opens. With starter Mike Fiers side-lined with back issues, neither Daniel Norris nor Matthew Boyd will be forced to move to the pen. There remains an outside chance that starter Ryan Carpenter, who has had a fine camp, could be slotted into a relief role for the short term.
Hardy has only recently returned from a shoulder impingement that kept him off the mound for several weeks. Presumably he has the line on being the Tigers’ first call-up once he’s gotten enough work in to be ready to handle major league innings. Despite an excellent spring camp, Chad Bell apparently didn’t impress enough to get the job.
One roster battle that remains heated also became clearer with the reassignment of infielders Pete Kozma and Ronny Rodriguez to minor league camp. While JaCoby Jones remains a bit of an x-factor—and will lead off in Thursday’s Grapefruit League action against the Phillies—the battle for the utility infielder spot appears to be down to Alexi Amarista and Niko Goodrum. Both are versatile defenders capable of playing anywhere in the infield. Amarista has struggled mightily at the plate this spring, while Goodrum has been red hot, posting a 1.028 OPS thus far.
One would expect that Goodrum has the inside track for the job based on his spring results, but he and Amarista will no doubt be under serious scrutiny over the final week of Spring Training. As for JaCoby Jones, Ron Gardenhire has made it clear he’d like to bring both Jones and Reyes north. As a quality defensive center fielder who played shortstop for most of his college and minor league career, Jones’ versatility may yet win him a spot on the 25 man roster. The Tigers will have to weigh his ability to help the team, with the desire to get him regular at-bats in the hopes of improving his approach and tapping into his raw power more effectively.
Outfielders Jim Adduci and Chad Huffman were also reassigned to minor league camp on Thursday.