Prior to today’s game in Dunedin versus Toronto, Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the media that by the time the Tigers take the bus to Sarasota to face Baltimore on Tuesday, only one roster spot will have yet to be decided.
The final player to be cut will likely come from the pitching staff, so a decision will be made between Don Kelly, Clete Thomas, and Jeff Larish in the morning. Larish is the long-shot, as he doesn’t provide the depth at centerfield Leyland is looking for. Most folks seem to think Kelly ends up getting the call, but I could see the argument either way. Thomas has had a very good camp, as has Kelly, but Kelly’s ability to play on the infield as well as the outfield is giving him a perceived edge.
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Leyland also confirmed, among other things, that RHP Ryan Perry has indeed made the club, but there wasn’t much doubt on that one, I don’t think. In other news, Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander are also going to make the team.
Just in case, Porcello took the mound today and held the Blue Jays without a hit for the first 5.1 innings. He had retired 16 of the first 17 batters he faced before the Jays broke through with three hits and two runs in the sixth. Through five, Porcello had allowed just one ball out of the infield, a pop-up caught by shortstop Adam Everett in short left field. Porcello is slated to start the home opener versus Cleveland on April 9.
Leyland says that he plans on taking his entire squad on the trip to play the Orioles, but Jeremy Bonderman won’t make the trip as he is slated to pitch in a minor league contest. Read into that what you will. Dontrelle Willis is making the start against the O’s and Nate Robertson is scheduled to pitch Thursday before the team breaks camp.
The Bonderman situation could be looked at a couple of ways as we search for clues into the head of the manager. Is it that Bonderman needs the work and the number of days in camp is dwindling? Could it be that Leyland and company feel comfortable with Bondo’s spot and don’t feel they need to see him versus big league talent? That’s the way I’m looking at it, anyway.
To me, it would appear as if tomorrow is Willis’ last audition. If he pitches as well as he has this spring, he could cement his spot on the roster. If not, the debate continues. As I mentioned, Robertson is slated to go on Thursday, but Leyland said he would like to finalize his roster before then, as early as Wednesday.
Time will tell how this plays out for sure, a long spring has become very short for three pitchers. Tow of them will be in Detroit for sure, maybe all three. Are the trade talks involving Robertson heating up? Perhaps, perhaps, Leyland is hinting that such a trade could be done by Wednesday.
Either way, tomorrow’s game versus Baltimore is easily the biggest start in a non-meaningful game of Dontrelle Willis’ career. This is what he has worked so hard for, will he be able to do enough to keep his job?