The latest casualties in the battle for roster spots were announced on Monday morning, as the Detroit Tigers optioned two players to Triple-A Toledo and dismissed two others from major league camp.
The most notable of those cuts was outfielder Dustin Peterson, who has been performing admirably this spring. Acquired from the Atlanta Braves in September on a waiver claim, there were thoughts of him serving as a kind of utility man, filling in at the corner outfield spots and spelling Miguel Cabrera at first when needed.
That reality may come to fruition at some point this season, but it will have to be after he spends a little more time in Triple-A. With Josh Harrison now penciled in as the everyday second baseman, Niko Goodrum will likely fill the main utility role, but there’s still a possibility of a 25th man on the bench. For now, the competition for the last spot has been narrowed to three main candidates: Ronny Rodriguez, Gordon Beckham, and Brandon Dixon. Rodriguez seems like the favorite to break camp with the Tigers — he spent some time as a major leaguer in 2018 and has the most upside of those three.
The choice to send righthander Zac Reininger back to Toledo also gives us a clearer idea of what the middle relief situation will look like on Opening Day. That said, Detroit’s bullpen is often a rotating door, so it’s still likely that he pitches at Comerica Park in 2019. Reininger’s stuff is better than his results have been so far, so he may be looking to refine his command or work on setting hitters up more effectively while he waits for his next chance with the big club.
It comes as no surprise that the Tigers decided to reassign pitchers Kyle Funkhouser and Louis Coleman back to minor league camp. Funkhouser may have been in the running for a spot in the starting five if it weren’t for back-to-back seasons shortened by unusual injuries. He’s determined to overcome those setbacks, though, and his mechanics and arm action don’t portend chronic performance-related issues going forward. His season will be spend simply getting more experience and polishing his approach. He should make his major league debut at some point this season.
Coleman is in an entirely different situation. After throwing 51 1⁄3 perfectly competent innings for them last year, the Tigers re-signed him to a minor league deal this offseason. That was an excellent move from an organizational standpoint — the funky righty will be excellent depth for a pitching corps that is often lacking without exacerbating a 40-man roster crunch — but stuck him with the ugly end of the stick.
There are now 36 players remaining in major league camp.