Mailbag: Lyon, Zumaya, Bonderman, Inge, Cabrera

Still rummaging through the leftover mailbag questions, but also mixed in a few new ones that came in. If you have a question, or a tangent, or maybe even a rambling, click the link here to send an email.

With the signing of Brandon Lyon to a one-year contract, where does that leave Joel Zumaya? Is he still in line for the closers role?
– Gareth R., Okemos, Mich.

This will sound like a non-answer, but it’s really the Tigers’ approach: Zumaya isn’t in line for any particular role until he’s healthy and pitching again, which is the Tigers’ priority with him right now. After two years of injuries, that’s really how they have to proceed. Once he gets back on the mound in games and gets comfortable, then the Tigers will think about where he fits in this bullpen. Barring a desperate need, like injuries to Lyon and Rodney, he will not be the closer starting out.

I was at TigerFest this weekend and Jeremy Bonderman wasn’t there. I have been to TigerFest for the past six years and he has never missed one. Is he expected to be healthy this season, is he okay? I am predicting him to have a great season.
– Martina E., East Lansing

No worries, he’s fine. Bonderman is working out at the Tigers’ spring training complex in Lakeland. The Tigers had him stay down there and focus on his rehab rather than go to TigerFest, which is the same approach they took with Zumaya.

I have read that Brandon Inge has added “15 pounds of muscle”. Could this adversely affect his fielding agility?
– Janice N., Farmington Hills

Hard to tell until he actually gets out on the field this spring. There are a lot of players at 200 pounds and above who have been and are very good third basemen, though many of them are also taller than six feet. One of Inge’s strongest points defensively has always been his first step, a big part of his range, but as you said, the added weight is apparently muscle. If he can go from catching every day to playing third base again down the stretch last year and not miss a beat, I’m not particularly worried.

When the Tigers originally traded for Miguel Cabrera, one of the biggest concerns the Tigers had with him was his weight. During last offseason he worked hard and lost about 20 pounds, but after he moved to first base last season, I heard nothing about his weight. Is Miguel still working on cutting out some fat, or has the new position made the Tigers content with having him play at a high weight?
– Karlek J., Northville

Cabrera looked like someone in good shape when he was in town for the winter caravan this past week. More important, two people who have personally watched Cabrera work out this winter — Carlos Guillen worked out with him in many days, while strength and conditioning coach Javair Gillett visited them in Venezuela — say he went at it hard and is in very good shape.

The focus on Cabrera is not on losing a bunch more weight. He did that already. He’s never going to be as slender as other players because of his body frame, and you don’t want to sap his power. The focus is on his quickness and his strength at a good playing weight for first base.

I heard the Tigers might move Granderson down in the lineup. Do you see that as a possibility, and if so, who do you see leading off?
– John B., Allendale, Mich.

Maybe someday Granderson will hit more towards the middle of the order, which is what you might have heard. But barring a bunch of injuries further down the order, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. With the lineup as it is, Granderson is the one natural leadoff guy on the roster.

Whatever happened to Francisco Cruceta? He was built up as the answer and then was late reporting to camp because of visa problems. He then had a brief stint with the Tigers, who traded Jason Grilli to make room for him. Last I heard he went to Toledo and disappeared from the radar.
– Dave C., Chatham, Ontario

UPDATE @ 12am: Cruceta signed a contract with the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization, where he will be teammates with former Royals pitcher Runelvys Hernandez. Cruceta was a Minor League free agent at the end of last season, since he wasn’t on the Tigers 40-man roster.

Could you help me understand why the Tigers don’t seem to be showing any interest in Manny Ramirez? He seems worth any deal they could negotiate.
– Eric S., Grosse Pointe

Considering Ramirez doesn’t appear anywhere close to signing with any club, a lot of teams would beg to differ. In the Tigers’ case, they don’t have the room to add him to the payroll, and even if they did, their approach to the offseason was that they have enough offense and needed to focus on defense and pitching.

Many view Ramirez as a designated hitter waiting to happen. My sense over the last couple years is that in the future, the Tigers might rather not have a full-time DH, and instead rotate some guys in and out of there — including Cabrera maybe — to ease some wear and tear on players.


Your last answer is interesting, Jason. I hadn’t thought about that. I had kind of figured that (assuming this will be Sheffield’s last season) we would look to fill the DH spot on the roster with someone. It makes a lot of sense, though, to free up that roster spot for an additional position player and rotate Ordonez/Guillen/Cabrera/Thames/? in the DH spot.
Personally, I was holding out for Ryan Howard, though…😉

It’s been suggested, and I agree, that Sheffield should take some turns in leftfield this year. No reason to wait for his departure to install some rotation at DH. I think it’s a good idea. Adds a lot of roster flexibility.

That’s just the sense I’ve gotten, Matt, especially if Magglio is around for the duration of his contract. I could see him playing right field some and DHing other days, with one of the younger guys maybe starting in RF at times (Clete Thomas? Wilkin Ramirez?). One could also see Jeff Larish getting some time at DH/1B with Cabrera.

Just dropping a note that I updated the mailbag with an update on Cruceta. He signed with the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization, that country’s professional league. Thanks to Brian Britten of Tigers media relations for pointing me in the right direction on that one.

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