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Tigers DFA Dustin Garneau, move Tyler Alexander to 15-day IL

Yet another injury in the rotation made the roster cuts rather simple, though Garneau was still a bit of a surprise.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

With MLB active rosters dropping to 26 players on Monday, the Tigers had two cuts to make. One decision was ultimately made for them, as they placed left-hander Tyler Alexander on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to April 30, with a left elbow sprain. That left just one move to make, and rather than Willi Castro or one of the relievers, the Tigers designated veteran catcher Dustin Garneau for assignment instead.

The move to put Alexander on the injured list was a surprise, but perhaps shouldn’t be based on his recent performance. The stalwart veteran has performed pretty well in a mixed role the past few seasons, but has been uncharacteristically wild in the early going this season. In 2021, he made 15 starts with a 3.81 ERA and 4.39 FIP. So far in 2022 he holds a 8.76 ERA and 6.01 FIP. Clearly things are amiss.

With an approach based on deception and command, Alexander’s raw stuff isn’t good enough to thrive as a starter when the precision is lacking. That flaw has been on display in the early going, but the Tigers will be hoping Alexander can recapture his 2021 form. Versatile, effective lefties who can move between the bullpen and spot starts aren’t so easy to come by. Hopefully Alexander’s issue is more precautionary than anything, allowing them to postpone decisions on some of their other arms through next week, and not necessarily indicating a major injury for the 27-year-old lefty.

The really interesting decision is who gets Alexander’s next start, which would’ve come on Thursday in Houston against the Astros. Matt Manning and Casey Mize don’t seem close to returning, and while Wily Peralta is the obvious choice, he hasn’t had a chance to stretch out beyond two innings in an outing yet. The Tigers could try Alex Faedo, who is on the 40-man, or more likely, LHP Joey Wentz, who also has a 40-man spot, but for now Peralta in a short start is probably the likeliest choice. Faedo has only made one start since returning from Tommy John and his early season rehab outings. He looked good in his first start for the Mud Hens, but an immediate promotion to the majors seems ill advised without some time to stretch out and find his groove again after two years missed to injury.

As for Garneau, this one was a bit of a surprise to me. His very presence on the roster seemed a bit of an indictment on Eric Haase’s defensive skills, though the ability to mix Haase’s potent bat into the outfield or to pinch hit, was the bigger factor. However, Garneau isn’t anything special behind the dish either, and he’s a 34-year-old veteran who has never been able to lock up a consistent major league role for any lengthy stretch of time. The Tigers may have no trouble getting him back on another minor league free agent deal to stash at Toledo as insurance.

However, for the moment the lack of catching depth in the system, until we reach top prospect Dillon Dingler at Erie, makes the situation a little precarious in case of an injury. Jake Rogers is progressing according to plan, but is presumably still several months from a rehab assignment after undergoing Tommy John surgery late last summer. Dingler is off to a shaky start with Erie, but his ETA isn’t until sometime in 2023 in the first place. However, his defensive abilities are coming along well enough that he could probably help out in a pinch if needed this summer. The Tigers do have veteran Ryan Lavarnway at Toledo as a backup plan as well.